Cryonics, from the Greek word ‘kryos’, meaning cold, is the low temperature preservation (usually at -196°C) of human bodies that presently cannot be sustained by contemporary medicine. It is the hope of Cryonicists (people working in the field of Cryonics) that restoration to full health will be made possible in the future with the further advancement of technology.
Cryonics is met with a lot of skepticism in the mainstream scientific community due to its speculative and controversial nature. And where there is controversy a lot of myths and misconceptions are born.
So here are 5 facts about Cryonics:
- Cryonics patients are not “frozen” in the conventional sense
It’s not a simple matter of just storing a clinically dead body into a fridge; it involves a more sophisticated process called vitrification where over 60% of the water inside cells is replaced with protective chemicals which prevent freezing and ice crystal formation even at cryonic temperatures (approximately -124°C).
The aim of Cryonics is to slow down molecular movement to a practical standstill, effectively preserving cell and tissues in their original state indefinitely.
- Cryonics isn’t about reviving people who’ve been dead for a while
Cryonics patients receive specialized care the moment they are declared clinically dead. As previously stated, the patients are preserved immediately after their heart stops beating.
We do not yet have the technology to re-grow cells from corpses that have long decomposed. But who knows, maybe in the far future we can.
- Many reputable scientists support cryonics—and many don’t
Like every other theory, there are reputable proponents for both sides of the argument. The reason why there isn’t much promotion for Cryonics is mostly due to sensationalist reporting on the subject in the past. Many scientists also reject the theory out of hand because they are ill-informed and unwilling to expend time and energy to properly research the topic to form an informed opinion. But that is completely understandable since scientists usually focus on very specific fields and Cryonics involves many areas of specialization so it can be difficult to assess.
- Cryonics isn’t just for the very rich
Cryopreservation isn’t as expensive as you’d imagine. For a one-time fee of $28,000 which includes the whole process, you’re all set to go. It’s a lot more expensive than a traditional funeral, but then again you’re not burying a deceased loved on, you’re preserving a body with the hope of it being revived in the future.
- Cryonics doesn’t necessarily conflict with religion
You can imagine followers of Abrahamic Religions such as Islam, Christianity, and Judaism protesting against Cryonics due to the misconceptions about it being a practice of reviving dead people a.k.a Necromancy, something that is absolutely forbidden in these faiths.
The problem lies within the definition of death. Many religions define death as the moment when the soul leaves the body. Cryonics defines death as a process and thus, argues that just because your body is not operating doesn’t mean that you’re dead. In fact, Cryonics asserts that clinical death is more of a critical condition, that cryopreservation isn’t a process of reanimating corpses, but rather of delaying death and preserving the body until better methods, tools, and techniques are made available to resuscitate the body, ultimately being a very pro-life initiative.
(Photos of Alcor Life Extension Foundation courtesy of Murray Ballard.)
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