In the latest Our Man Flint film dubiously honored as an American cultural export by voice-dubbing into French, the bad guys (in this case gals—an international political conspiracy of women) try to freeze the good guys, rendering them harmless for now but subject to potential usefulness years (or centuries) later. Observing the products of this biological cold storage, our hero remarks: “It’s not exactly the classic idea of immortality.”
But it is a limited kind of immortality—and far from being merely a science-fiction stunt or a gimmick to absorb footage in a B-grade film, cryonics (the technical name of the field) is a reality. Important publications dealing with the topic are appearing (the most comprehensive in English is R. C. W. Ettinger’s Prospect of Immortality), some non-profit organizations have affiliated to form the Cryonics Societies of America (a national conference took place at the New York Academy of Sciences in March); some funeral homes have installed cryogenic equipment; cryonic “ambulance” units are in the offing; and already several people are in storage.
The basic principle of cryogenic interment is simplicity itself. On the basis of successful experimental freezing and reanimation of lower animals such as rotifera and organs of higher animals such as chicken hearts, cryonics advocates propose the cooling of a human body to liquid nitrogen temperature (—321 F)—or later, when more sophisticated permanent installations become feasible, to liquid helium temperature (—449 F)—thereby storing the person at the time of “death” or at a terminal stage of illness so as to permit his resuscitation later, when medical knowledge ...1
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