Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Monday, January 18, 2010

How to Have Yourself Cryonically Preserved

Cryonics is the low-temperature preservation of humans and animals after death. Proponents of cryonics believe that what we consider legal death is really just an excuse for the medical community to give up on saving sick people. It is certainly true that death is a bit difficult to define by medical standards. It’s not terribly uncommon for hearts to stop and then start up again, or for brains to go dead, but hearts to go on a-beating indefinitely. Thus, figuring out exactly when a person is really dead is tough. After all, most of the time when a person is declared legally dead, nearly all of their cells are still living. For these reasons, hundreds of people have decided that the best thing to do is to have their bodies frozen immediately after their legal death, in the hopes that the technology to revive them and then heal them will someday be available.

The central premise of cryonics is that memory, personality, and identity are stored in the cellular structures and chemistry of the brain. Proponents claim preservation of this information is sufficient to prevent information-theoretic death until future repairs might be possible. Information-Theoretic Death is a counter-point to Legal Death. It is the destruction of the human brain (or any cognitive structure capable of constituting a person) and the information within it to such an extent that recovery of the original person is theoretically impossible. The concept of information-theoretic death arose in the 1990s in response to the problem that as medical technology advances, conditions previously considered to be death, such as cardiac arrest, become reversible and are no longer considered to be death.

There are three primary obstacles to cryopreservation at this time. The first is preservation injury. Though the preservation process is intended as a life-saving procedure, there are side effects. Damage from freezing can be serious; ice may form between cells, causing mechanical and chemical damage. Cryoprotectant solutions are circulated through blood vessels to remove and replace water inside cells with chemicals that prevent freezing. This can reduce damage greatly, but freezing of whole people still causes injuries that are not reversible with present technology. In addition to damage from freezing, further damage can be caused by ischemia, lack of oxygen-rich blood circulating in the body for the period of time before the preservation process can begin. Several cryonics organizations now utilize standby-teams who are on hand to begin the process of preservation as soon as possible after the heart stops. For legal (and ethical?) reasons, it is not permissible to begin the cryonics process before legal death has been declared.

The final—and perhaps most disconcerting—obstacle to cryonics is that we don’t currently have the technology for successful revival. Revival requires repairing damage from lack of oxygen, cryoprotectant toxicity, thermal stress (fracturing), freezing in tissues that do not successfully vitrify, and reversing the effects that caused the patient's death. In many cases extensive tissue regeneration will be necessary.

It has often been written that cryonics revival will be a last-in-first-out process. In this view, preservation methods will get progressively better until eventually they are demonstrably reversible, after which medicine will begin to reach back and revive people cryopreserved by more primitive methods. Revival of people cryopreserved by the current practices may require centuries, if it is possible at all. Survival would then depend on whether preserved brain information was sufficient to permit restoration of all or part of the personal identity of the original person.

Still Interested?
The cryonics field seems to have largely consolidated around three non-profit groups, Alcor, Cryonics Institute, and the American Cryonics Society. These are the folks you need to talk to if you want to pursue cryonics for yourself. Costs vary greatly, ranging from $28,000 to $155,000. To some extent these cost differences reflect variations in how fees are quoted. Some organizations don’t include “standby” (a team that begins procedures at bedside), transportation costs, or funeral director expenses in the quoted price, which must be purchased as extras.

While cryonics is sometimes suspected of being greatly profitable, the high expenses of doing cryonics are well documented. The expenses are comparable to major transplant surgeries. The largest single expense, especially for whole body cases, is the money that must be set aside to generate interest to pay for maintenance in perpetuity.

The most common method of paying for cryonics is life insurance, which spreads the cost over many years. Cryonics advocates are quick to point out that such insurance is especially affordable for young people. It has been claimed that cryonics is affordable for the vast majority of people in the industrialized world who really want it and plan for it in advance.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Very Bad Poetry

From my friends at verybadpoetry.com, here are a few gems. Please feel free to share your own bad poetry in the comments. : )

The Story Of A Green M&M Juxtaposed With The Blue-Greenness Of Dill Weed
The M&M is small,
the faded imprint of
the trademark "M"
glaring at the upper
portion of the room

Filamental crackly sort
of opaque plastic hovers
like an electric halo
over cardboard flaps:
Blue-green reeking
Kentucky-esque faux
landscape contained
within the static

Creeping up the wave
and frightening the M&M
into inferiority (it has
no smell) Dill Weed
in it's Rockfly-Nymph
imitation green facade
overpowers the room
and makes me think
of smalltown corner
stores in early September,
which brings me back
to the M&M.
~By Dolores Azul

Broken Television
Broken Television
We were more than just friends
O' baby
I feel the pain, without you
Broken heart, you know it's true
Set me free, heart to heart,
Kissing your lips makes me feel warm inside

Don't hide your love,
Goodbye my dove.


~by John Zodiac

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Boss, Part 1: The Early Years

Who is the best musician/songwriter ever? Bruce Springsteen, of course. This fact is well-known and undisputed. Nevertheless, many people are ignorant about his early life and rise to fame. Bruce Frederick Joseph Springsteen was born in Long Branch, NJ. His parents were of Dutch/Irish and Italian ancestry, and his surname is actually Dutch for “stepping stone.” Springsteen was raised as a Roman Catholic and attended Catholic school. He was at odds with his religious education early in life, but more recent musical output seems to show he has made some sort of peace with it. His high school teachers say he was a loner who never wanted to do anything other than play his guitar (feel free to hum “No Surrender” here). Though he completed graduation, he skipped the graduation ceremony.

His first small break was thanks to a couple named Tex and Marion Vinyard who sponsored young bands in town. They helped him secure a place as lead guitarist and lead singer of The Castiles. That band recorded two original songs and played a variety of local venues in Jersey. The Vinyards have said that they knew right away that Springsteen would make it big.

The Boss was inducted into the army at the age of 19, but failed the physical examination, so never had to serve in Vietnam. The way he tells the story, he suffered a concussion in a motorcycle accident at 17; that together with his ‘crazy’ behavior at the physical and his refusal to take any test was enough to earn him a 4F.

In the late ‘60s, he performed briefly with a group called Earth, still playing gigs around New Jersey. At this time he acquired the nickname “the Boss” because he took it upon himself to collect the nightly pay and distribute it amongst the other band members. For the next several years, Springsteen played with a variety of different acts, including Steel Mill, Dr Zoom & Sonic Boom, Sundance Blues Band, and finally, the Bruce Springsteen Band, which eventually morphed into the E Street Band.

Springsteen signed his first record deal with Columbia Records in 1972. His debut album was Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ and was a success among critics, though sales were slow. The follow-up album, The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle, was also critically acclaimed, but had little commercial success. Later, however, songs from these albums such as “4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)” and “Rosalita” would become fan favorites.

In the May 22, 1974, issue of Boston's The Real Paper, music critic Jon Landau wrote about a show he had recently seen: "I saw rock and roll future, and its name is Bruce Springsteen. And on a night when I needed to feel young, he made me feel like I was hearing music for the very first time.” The band’s next album was Born to Run. The record was an epic struggle to produce, but an epic success as well. It peaked at number 3 on the Billboard 200.

More to come!