Wednesday, October 04, 2006

cryogenics and cryonics

You are stunned by this: the word cryogenics is constantly being misused in popular science banter. And until now, you frequently misused the term too--especially in recent months after hearing the slightly despressing tale of how a cryonics enthusiast and pioneer was prematurely defrosted when his freezer capsule malfunctioned. For believers in cryonics, this must have been devastating news. It would be like watching your friend die all over again, but permanently this time. In the retelling of this true story, you self-importantly rattled on about cryogenics not knowing that you were using the wrong terminology.

How do we misuse these two terms? Well, cryogenics is the scientific observation of how materials react to very low temperatures. In more recent uses, it also describes the state of the low temperature itself. Cryonics, however, is the post-mortem freezing of oneself with confidence in the possibility of future life extension. It is based upon the widely-supported theory that personality and memory is stored within the cells of the brain thus making it possible to be revived once human beings unlockthe secrets behind longevity and/or immortality. Many cling to its theoretical potential because of how certain amphibians and insects can be revived after being frozen for long periods. Despite these successful animal cryopreservation experiments,and the fact that many scientists believe that we do store personal identity in the human brain, most are skeptical about human cryopreservation.

You tend to agree; cryonics is a crap theory. Not even the brilliant film 'Encino Man' could convince you that such future revival is possible. The body, after extended periods of being frozen (decades at minimum), must experience some kind of irreparable damage. It seems obvious to you; hello, freezer burn. Even if you pretend that such damage is somehow avoidable, what about the whole human spirit argument? Why would the human spirit want to nestle back into a cold, grey, piece of meat? It's not a super inviting host. And if you don't believe in spirit, just think about it in terms of energy flow; energy moves from object to object with specific rules of attraction (having to do with ions and magnetism). Post-death, the body's energy would either pool elsewhere (depending on the environment) or it would diffuse and seemingly evaporate into the immediate surroundings. This energy is that which we feel in our nerves and that which sparks independent thought in our brains. How could freezing the body post-death preserve that spark? It can't. All Pauly Shore genius aside, cryonics is definitely bullshit.

Check it out guys! I'm in a cryopreservation chamber!