Vonnie's View with QT columnist Yvonne Gardiner.
Vonnie's View with QT columnist Yvonne Gardiner. Ipswich Advertiser

Immortality goes into a deep freeze in Britain

THE search for immortality has taken a bizarre turn.

Academics in Britain are paying enormous sums to have their heads cryogenically preserved, basically frozen, when they die.

Scientist Anders Sandberg, quoted in The Sunday Times, says his hope is that technology a century or two in the future will be able to resurrect him and cure whatever caused his death.

"I would wake up in an entirely new world and that prospect is very exciting," he explained.

Despite the optimism for life after death, Sandberg does harbour a few worries about the unproved procedure.

"As a head, my life would be limited, but by then we will be able to make real connections to computers," he enthuses.

"So my hope is that, once revived, my memories and personality could be downloaded into a computer."

That's not as far-fetched as it sounds.

Russian scientists are already working on technologies to transfer the human personality to an artificial body or so-called "avatar".

Cryonics card-carriers are relying on a company in the US, Alcor, to preserve their vital parts.

Alcor reportedly has 117 bodies and heads already in the deep freeze. More than 30 of their death-defying patients have also had their pets frozen with them.

Close to a thousand "members" keen to overcome the inevitability of death have paid in advance to be cryonicised.

Critics say companies that perform cryonics are cheating people out of their money with the promise of an immortality they can't deliver.

Who can say what will be scientifically possible a few centuries from today?

Look how far technology has taken us in the past century. Medical advances extend our lives in many ways.

Defibrillators and CPR bring accident and heart attack victims back from the recently dead.

Neurosurgeons often cool patients' bodies so they can operate.

Human embryos that are frozen in fertility clinics, defrosted and implanted in a mother's uterus, grow into perfectly normal human beings.

Nevertheless cryonics is a gamble not for the fainthearted. It's the ultimate adventure into the unknown.

Imagine waking up two centuries after death to find that humans have done a runner and abandoned a ruined earth for another planet, and all they've left behind is rats, cockroaches and carnivorous plants.

I can't see a human head being top of the food chain in that unhappy scenario.

In Australia the first cryonics facility already on the drawing board.

Stasis Systems aims to have a regional NSW facility operational by the end of 2014.

"The response in Australia has been very favourable," a spokesman told me.

"We are still looking to take on investors prior to the facility opening, and will begin accepting members sometime next year."

Anyone interested in being deep-frozen for posterity should apply.


MILITANT LADY: British suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst is arrested in 1914.
MILITANT LADY: British suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst is arrested in 1914. File

Suffragettes "terrorists" of their era

WHILE grateful to the suffragettes for my precious vote, I can hardly condone the dirty deeds done to achieve it.

I had no idea these women's rights campaigners were thought of in some circles as "terrorists".

One of their contemptible acts was carried out in Leicestershire, UK, close to where I'm staying.

It was 1914 and the suffragettes were at war with the establishment.

They certainly captured people's attention by burning down part of a village rail station, an incident reported in the Leicester Mercury.

Last week marked the 100th anniversary of the tragedy which defined the movement to secure women the vote - the death of Emily Wilding Davison who was trampled by the king's horse at the Epsom Derby.

A decade before, the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) had been founded by Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst.

This group of activists promised "deeds, not words".

They were credited with smashing shop windows, cutting phone cables, torching stately homes, planting a bomb in Westminster Abbey, vandalising art, and throwing a hatchet at a car carrying the Prime Minister.

An independent researcher in Britain has compared modern Islamic terrorists to the militant suffragette movement.

Dr Christopher Bearman argues in the BBC History Magazine that terrorists do not perceive themselves as aggressors.

Dr Bearman complains that historians have ignored the public revulsion at the campaign of arson conducted by the WSPU in the run-up to the First World War and failed to tell "both sides of the story".

Despite trying to set the record straight, he doesn't condemn the actions of the suffragette movement.

He says simply: "One person's terrorist is another's freedom fighter."

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