CRYOGENICS,SUSPENDED ANIMATION AND REANIMATION

 

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INTRO

When we think of cryogenics, we often picture sci-fi movies, where people are frozen or floating in a liquid of sorts until they reach their destination in space or time. But is this what cryogenic-engineering is really about?
Well, yes and no. Cryogenics is a process used to freeze a solid, liquid, or gas in order to research its characteristics and properties under those conditions. So as you can see, this covers a wide range of topics, from cloning, to medical research to pathology and to yes-cryogenic freezing of human beings.
Is suspended animation any different than cryogenics? The answer is yes, in a few ways. In suspended animation, fluids are used instead of freezing, and the body is chilled to a certain temperature, but above freezing, to where it slows the blood rate to a very slow flow.

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CRYOGENICS

In the movie “The Empire Strikes Back” Han Solo is frozen in a cryogenic slab by his enemies until he is later revived by his friends in “Return of The Jedi.” But is it really to freeze a human body to only be revived at a later date? Although it is currently not possible to do this, it hasn’t deterred people from trying. There are currently 200 people who have died and had themselves frozen, in hopes that science might some day find a way to help them live again in the future.
This concept is purely science fiction, but is based in science fact. Biological organs can be frozen and often are to be used in later operations involving hearts, livers, kidneys, and so on. In some medical procedures, the body can be slowed by a certain temperature to combat various forms of viruses and cancers. Cryogenics is involved in food production, keeping foods cold enough to prevent contamination, a process known as flash freezing. It is also used for different types of medical research, including gene therapy, cloning processes and in vitro fertilization. Frozen gases are used for all of these purposes, as well as various rocket fuels. Oxygen is often used as an oxidizing agent, and liquid Nitrogen as a propellent. Many spacecraft, especially the Apollo missions have used these types of fuels.

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It is also used extensively in the area of quantum physics. To create the reality of space, temperatures as low as absolute zero, or -459 fahrenheit are used with a vacuum and radiation to mimic the properties in space. Comets are believed to carriers of amino acids, the building blocks of life, frozen inside their icy surface, until the land on a planet sustainable for life, such as our own. Plans are being made to create the world’s smartest computer, the quantum computer, which may be able to even surpass the complex processes of the human brain. It must be kept at absolute zero in order to maintain its functions. It may one day lead to true artificial intelligence.
So you see, there is more to cryogenics than meets the eye. Next time you watch a sci-fi movie involving cryogenics, such as Demolition Man or Prometheus, remember this is only science fiction. Real cryogenics has the potential to boost mankind to the next level. Tomorrow I will discuss the other process allowing people to live longer and go farther than man has ever gone before. Until tomorrow, here are today’s links:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cryonics
http://cryogenics.nist.gov/AboutCryogenics/about%20cryogenics.htm
http://zidbits.com/2011/02/can-a-human-be-frozen-and-brought-back-to-life/

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SUSPENDED ANIMATION

We all know the story. A crew on board an interstellar spacecraft is placed into a state of suspended animation until they reach their destination and what ever horrible fate awaits them, usually some alien creature or civilization. Countless movies have been made about this subject, including Alien, Prometheus, Planet of the Apes, and so on. Is this really possible, can we travel years in space, only to be revived again near some distant world?
Scientists believe that one day this will be a reality, allowing us to travel great distances across the galaxy, but what will we find once we get there is a topic for another discussion. The fact that there is muscular degeneration in space is a large obstacle we will have to overcome. Perhaps with the help of muscle enhancers, this could be accomplished. Extended sleep would also help with the problems of prolonged loneliness and boredom, often associated with seclusion.
Researchers are currently working with gun shot victims to slow their bodily functions to a slower rate in order to treat their injuries. A cold saline solution is used to cool the person’s blood flow in order to treat the wounded area. Vital signs are dropped to a near death-like state until the operation is performed, then are gradually raised with heat until the patient is out of critical status. Doctors believe these experiments will lead to more diverse uses, especially space travel.

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The main difference between suspended animation and cryonics is the process and how it is applied. Suspended animation is merely the slowing of bodily functions to a near death state, unlike cryonics, where freezing is involved. It is very similar to the process animals use to hibernate. There is currently research in suspended animation using lemurs, the only known primate to hibernate.

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So maybe one day, cancer patients can be kept asleep until a cure is found. There are other problems to overcome such as how this affects brain activity, and how it will affect the patient after he knows he’s been asleep for 30 years like Rip Van Winkle. Join me tomorrow when I discuss the frightening result of bringing someone back from the dead and what could go wrong with the cryonic process-Reanimation. Until tomorrow, here are today’s links:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suspended_animation
http://www.popsci.com/article/science/how-it-works-putting-humans-suspended-animation
http://www.forbes.com/sites/stevenkotler/2014/05/21/suspended-animation-goes-primetime-say-goodbye-to-death-as-we-know-it/

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REANIMATION

In 1816, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin and her future husband Percy Shelly were visiting their friend Lord Byron on a rather dark and stormy night. He had other guests present and he read from a book of ghost stories as he often did. Later that night, he challenged each one to come up with a ghost story of his own. Mary came up with a frightening story of a doctor named Victor Frankenstein, who took a bunch of animal and human body parts, sewed them together, added a little electricity, and reanimated a corpse.
Sounds like science fiction, doesn’t it? At the time, however, there were doctors trying to actually reanimate animals using electricity, including a close personal friend of the Shelleys. This is not a new idea, and has continuously invaded our culture through the popularity of zombie films and stories. Zombies are nothing more than reanimated corpses, and also have roots in reality. During the 60’s and early 70’s Wade Davis did extensive research in the study alleged real-life zombies. He didn’t find the undead, but found something equally as frightening. In Haiti, where many of the current zombie stereotypes originated from, the voodoo priests used a form of neurotoxin from a poisonous fish to produce a paralytic state. It slowed down body rate to near death. By all intended purposes, the person was dead. After the toxin wore off, the person revived. Some people were even buried in shallow graves, in belief the person would return from the dead.

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But that is not really reanimation. In order for this to work in humans, there needs to be no cellular change after the point of death, and the circulatory system needs to cool to the point of freezing or below, without any cellular damage. Sound impossible? Right now, it is, but scientists may have an answer to this riddle soon, perhaps within ten years or so. 100 people have signed on to be guinea pigs in the research, freezing themselves cyrogenic chambers until a solution is found to cheat death.
Is being eternal really the solution for mankind, and is it really ethical to play God. In my opinion, if we become the gods, we will no longer need God. Is it me, or is this whole field of study just a bad idea. Just like in the movies, and phrased from the title of one of the early zombie flicks, “Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things.”
I will be wrapping up this series tomorrow with a few insights about these subjects, and projection into the implications if we are successful in this research. Until tomorrow, here are today’s links:

http://www.livescience.com/18379-reanimate-dead-frankentstein.html
http://www.nlm.nih.gov/frankenstein/
http://www.metrotimes.com/detroit/mi-cryonics-inst-freezes-dead-for-reanimation/Content?oid=2203268
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zombie_(fictional)
http://science.howstuffworks.com/science-vs-myth/strange-creatures/zombie.htm

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CONCLUSIONS

As we have found, scientists are on verge of discovery in the world of cryonics. We have learned to preserve human organs, embryos, and even entire bodies using the cryogenic process. We may one day have a future with no disease,the slowing of old age and near immortality. We will be able to revive someone who has slept for a 1000 years without any strange side affects. We will finally be able to travel the stars without the hindrance of having to spend long hours in space and huge amounts of resources to do so by using suspended animation.
Although many of these ideas sound promising, I still have my reservations. Solving medical problems here is a good start, but as I’ve stated before, I don’t believe reanimation or cloning are good ideas. Too many unethical situations and questions come to mind, and there are no fail safes for experimental research in this area. I myself wish for a longer, healthier life, but we are what we are, and I feel life is what God has given us. It is up to us to decide what to do with it.

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In the area of space travel the cryonic process would be essential, but would have to be perfected with no margin for error. Wake up too early, they will die before they get there, wake up too late and they would crash or overshoot their target. In my new novel, due out in Dec 2015 or 2016, the main character awakes from a cryogenic chamber, only to find herself 100 years in the future, way longer than she wanted to be asleep. This is a very real possibility were this type of technology to be used improperly. And in my first novel, Akros using the field of cryonics to create a race of abominations.
I do believe that one day these major problems will be overcome. The question is, however, should they be overcome? We do need to conquer some of these issues to survive as a species, but we also need to solve problems here first, such as war, disease, and overpopulation. Without addressing the issues, we may never survive as a species here or anywhere else in the universe.
Monday I will return with a brand new series. Until then, here are today’s links:

http://www.cryonics.org/
http://earlswynn.hubpages.com/hub/Cryogenics
http://www.space.com/22526-astronaut-hibernation-space-travel-infographic.html

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SCIENCE FICTION AND SCIENCE REALITY

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