Frozen in Time


Imagine a world no longer oppressed by diseases. Those abnormal conditions that disrupt the structure and function of our bodies; any harmful divergence would finally disperse and evanesce. Yet, we would still die. If not for another reason, we could die of old age, as we do age. Death approaches us slowly but surely. What if there was no such thing as death? Hold that thought for a while. Are you familiar with these terms from a frozen world, cryonics or suspended animation? Have you ever come across those in a fictional universe?

Preserve, or Pause?

Cryonics entails low-temperature freezing/cooling a recently deceased body to preserve tissues, organs, and ultimately the brain intact with its associated memories, hoping that future science may resurrect it. Suspended animation on the other hand involves pausing of metabolism of an organism without terminating life – people go to sleep and are held frozen in time. The bodies may preserve under a lethargic state until science and technology gains on and revives and restores them with renewed youth and radically extended life spans. Most regard these sci-fi versions of immortality as quackery, yet the adaptation of these concepts in fiction seems plausible.

Featured as plot mechanisms in numerous fiction/sci-fi stories, these visionary schemes are used as modes of traveling between certain points in time or space (interstellar space travel) that takes years. The use of suspended animation comes out in pages of Arthur C. Clarke. In his third science fiction novel, Childhood’s End (1953), Jan Rodricks reanimates from suspended animation after being stowed away on the Overlord supply ship and sets foot on Overlord’s planet.

There was no point in waiting any longer: it would only be a strain on the nerves. He took out the little syringe, already loaded with the carefully prepared solution. Narcosamine had been discovered during research into animal hibernation: it was not true to say – as was popularly believed that it produced suspended animation. All it caused was a great slowing-down of the vital processes, though metabolism still continued at a reduced level… But when, after weeks or months, the effect of the drug wore off, they would burst out again and the sleeper would revive…

Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke

Frozen in Hypersleep

The Space Odyssey series mentions suspended animation as dreamless sleep and features it as a perfect way for space travel. Artificially induced human hibernation takes a spotlight as a means to facilitate space voyages that require years, even decades. In Morten Tyldum’s Passengers (2016), and Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar (2014), the concept of hypersleep is evocatively expressed; although the depictions gloss over how the technology function.

Romilly entering his hypersleep pod on the way to Saturn – “Interstellar” (2016)

The voyagers in these fictions lay down in their pods accustomed to facilitate cryosleep/hibernation; onboard computers taking care of their bodily needs and giving a “wake-up call” when it’s time to awaken, months or years later with your body and memories all intact. In these fictional versions, these concepts associate superficially simple and spontaneous processes. Computer terminals are connected to the pods and digital screens display vitals, with beeps buzzing. The person inside the pod awakens with the push of a button, or automatically after a certain time has elapsed.

From Fiction to Fact

When it comes to reality, the whole phenomenon is far more complex and needs the convergence of inter-related, co-dependent disciplines in science and technology. This is where the aforementioned question intersects: can humankind defeat death and become immortal? Or is it just a mere promulgated concept that exists in the universe of fiction? Even though many scientists within the mainstream appraise cryonics with cynicism, these conjectural concepts remain viable with the accelerating rate of technological advancement.

Cryonics Institute

The Cryonics Institute founded by Robert Ettinger is a non-profit membership organization dedicated to maintaining the concept and practice of cryonics facilitating in various areas. If aging can be stopped or slowed down at some future time, it may lead to the rejuvenation of youth and eventually exemption of death.

The aging of astronauts due to the longevity of space travel may no longer be a matter of concern and we may overcome not only the death, in a way, time as well; frozen in time…

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