Being the good shepherd

November 14, 2007

The following is an extract of an email reply i wrote for a good friend who is separated in time and distance.

Dear …,

As you know, I prefer to express myself in a passive form, mostly on the overview of life and not it’s contents: Today will be no exception, perhaps a little bit more boring…..

You and I are both like shepherds. Traveling from place to place in search of new food (for life). Our sheep are our thoughts, dreams, actions and our endeavors. Some sheep take us forward because the explore in certain directions. Others hold us back because they are lazy to move on or perhaps have got used to certain grass they found. So to be a good shepherd its important to know which sheep want what.

In the last couple of weeks I have been analyzing my sheeps to see how they have evolved since I came to Europe. How they have responded to new places, the new types of food that were offered and towards the sheep of other shepherds. And I have discovered many things. I now know that some of my sheep have changed their taste. They have accepted to live on what they find. Some of them wander around too much giving me a hard time while others are calm and quite and have deep understanding of veracity. And off course, some of them still act juvenile and yearn to go back to places i have left behind. Unfortunately, all sheep must travel in herds. There is no scope for one of them to aloof and jump on a dream machine to go back where crops are best. Its also doesnt make sense because season effects what is harvested, and maybe the same tasty crop will never grow again on that land. But as you know from being a shepherd too, sometimes sheeps’ become deaf and blind. They require no reason and simply grow wings.

So, I as a shepherd, am trying to inspire those sheeps with the promise of new lands and to give hope that other sheeps are doing the same as they are. And to make them understand, no matter how wide the horizons spread, all lands lead to each another, and eventually that day will arrive when the fields of one shepherd will cross that of another one.

Kind regards,

The Prospect of Immortality

November 5, 2007

Words cannot describe death, for those who have experienced it have not the power to express anymore. Death is reality – an integral part of life – an absolute balance to nature – the finishing touch of a complete life cycle.

But what if this cycle can be terminated to form a linear life with no end? What is the prospect of immortality, if ever created, by mere mortals?

In 1962, Michigan College physics teacher Robert Ettinger published a book which addressed an analogous issue: Cryonics.

Cryonics is derived from the Greek word κρύος (kryos), meaning icy cold. It is the process of cryopreservating of a body to liquid nitrogen temperature to stop the natural decay processes that occur after death. Cryonics practitioners hope that future technology will allow the legally deceased person to be restored to life when and if science is able to cure all disease, rejuvenate people to a youthful condition and repair damage from the cryopreservation process itself.

The basic principle of cryonics is that memory, personality, and identities are stored in the structure and chemistry of the brain. If this states can be preserved and can be restored, it is possible to revive the state of a patient.

To achieve a long-term cryopreservation, requires cooling to near -196 °C, the temperature of liquid nitrogen. Cooling whole people to this temperature causes injuries that are not reversible with present technology. When untreated tissue is slowly cooled below the freezing point of water, ice forms between cells, causing mechanical and chemical damage. Cryonics uses cryoprotectants to reduce this 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 not enough for whole people to recover spontaneously from cryopreservation. When used at high concentrations, cryoprotectants stop ice formation completely. This process of cooling and solidification without freezing is called vitrification.

It is universally agreed by scientists and cryonics advocates that reversing human cryopreservation is not possible with “any near-term technology.” Those who believe that revival may someday be possible generally look toward advanced bioengineering, molecular nanotechnology and nanomedicine where molecular-level repair and regeneration of damaged tissues can be achieved.

Revival of cryopreserved patients
Revival of cryopreserved patients requires repairing damage from lack of oxygen, cryoprotectant toxicity, thermal stress (fracturing), freezing in tissues that do not successfully vitrify, physical therapy to regain function of the body (similar to that of a long-term coma), and reversing the effects that caused the patient death. In many cases extensive tissue regeneration will be necessary. Hypothetical revival scenarios generally envision repairs being performed by vast numbers of microscopic organisms or devices. These devices would restore healthy cell structure and chemistry at the molecular level, ideally before warming.

Forms of Cryonics
There are two distinct preservation options in cryonics: “whole body preservation” or “Neuropreservation” (sometimes called “neuro”). The latter is the cryopreservation of only the brain, usually within the head, with surgical removal and disposal of the rest of the body.

Neuropreservation is motivated by the fact that the brain is the primary repository of memory and personal identity. (For instance, spinal cord injury victims, organ transplant patients, and amputees retain their personal identity.) It is also motivated by the belief that reversing any type of cryonic preservation is so difficult and complex that any future technology capable of it must by its nature be capable of generalized tissue regeneration, including regrowth of a new body around a repaired brain. Some suggested revival scenarios for whole body patients even involve discarding the original body and regenerating a new one because tissues are so badly damaged by the preservation process. These considerations, along with lower costs, easier transportation in emergencies, and the specific focus on brain preservation quality, have motivated many cryonicists to choose neuropreservation.

Companies offering Cryopreservation
The largest current practitioners of cryonics are two member-owned, non-profit organizations, the Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Scottsdale, Arizona, with 77 cryopreserved patients and the Cryonics Institute in Clinton Township, Michigan with 85.

The picture below shows “bigfoot” Dewar which is custom-designed to contain four wholebody patients and six neuropatients immersed in liquid nitrogen at −196 degrees Celsius. The Dewar is an insulated container which consumes no electric power. Liquid nitrogen is added periodically to replace the small amount that evaporates the container.


And finally…
It has been claimed that if technologies for general molecular analysis and repair are ever developed, then theoretically any damaged body could be “revived”. Disease and aging are also assumed to be reversible. 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, with AMNESIA being the final dividing line between life and death – between a cycle and a linear life form.

The open diary of a pigeon

October 6, 2007

Mannheim. Day 2.
It has been two days since i have arrived to this concrete island they call marketplace. With high hopes to find unlimited food supplies as murmured by my precedors, i have traveled miles and sacrificed the utmost to reach here. This is a brand new start that i have been waiting for. All i have to do is find a nesting place.

Mannheim. Day 17.
My expectations are disturbed by the fact that I have entered a place of mystic uncertainty. A place where logic and maths cannot solve all equations of life. This is a city where food is ample yet hunger remains a daily companion. Its beyond my understanding. I know this is only the beginning. There is more i have to see.

Heidelberg. Day 46.
Today, I and a few companions decided to fly a little further – to the next city. It took me 278 wing strokes to reach there. Under normal circumstances this would be too much travel for me in search for food. But I have noticed my physical abilites stretch a few extra strokes during exploration. This is good news. Because, if the current situation prevails, i might have to do this often.

Mannheim. Day 112.
Today is the American independence day. I am not sure if that matters at all to me because i am two oceans and probably 3 cat years away. There is no waves of applaud coming by or the sound of crackers exploding around while the national anthem hums in the background. All i can imagine is the bread crumbs and chips people must be scattering all over the party place. Indeed, this can be heaven on earth for a pigeon, if you ask me.

Karlsruhe. Day 256.
In many ways the life of a pigeon is simple. We do not care about the physical properties of existance nor the logical analogies of modern living as people do. We know only two things: to feed and to breed. But still nature has perfected us as with elegance and deep complexity which even the most genius man cant unfold. I only realized this today when the kid was trying to fly his man made paper bird. It was ugly. It didnt flap. No wonder it couldnt fly long. Now i know, its worth living life as a pigeon than just being a wingless body seeing a paper plane fly for a few seconds. Those humans will never understand.