X-Message-Number: 10970
From: "Olaf Henny" <>
Subject: Re: Ben Bova's Book Immortality
Date: Thu, 24 Dec 1998 13:56:47 -0800

There have been some comments on sci.life-extension about Ben Bova's book,
Immortality.  Unfortunately I cannot reach these comments any longer, but my
admittedly unreliable memory tells me, that these comments were largely
based on second hand information obtained from others, who had read the
book.  The comments were dismissive and would have kept me from bothering to
read the book, had I not ordered it already at the time.  I have now
finished reading it and am glad I did so.

Some of the criticism, which has been leveled Against Ben Bova's Immortality
was, that he did not supply references to the pertinent research, which
backs up his statements.

The fact of the matter is, that Mr. Bova did not write this work as a
scientists for other scientists to assist them in their research, but he
wrote it as a journalist, with a lifetime interest in science for *me*, the
layman who is interested in saving his own mortal butt and accordingly
welcomes the comprehensive overview of life extension prospects, which Ben
Bova offers in his book..

Of course Mr. Bova puts his own stamp of personal biases into his book, as
to which avenues of life prolonging measures he considers the most
promising.  Some examples being, that he attributes considerable weight to
genetic manipulation and describes the interaction of telomeres
peritelomeric genes and telomerase, accepts completely the claims of
rejuvenating effects of HGH, but dismisses DHEA, which is known to raise the
level of IGF-1 at least to some degree, almost completely.  He doesn't even
bother to mention the litany of the anti-DHEA crowd about cirrhosis and
cancer of the liver which happened to those poor, severely overdosed rats,
or cancer of the prostate. He dismisses melatonin as a fad of 1995, does not
mention the antioxidant properties of the hormone (he appreciates those of
Vitamins A, C and E though), and disputes its sleep inducing effects.
"Virtually all of the evidence cited in favor of melatonin has been
anecdotal". He also gives CR short shrift.  He appears to side with
scientist, who hold the following view as cited by Bova: "Some researchers
believe that the life-extending effects of restricting lab rodent's food
intake is not so remarkable after all.  They point out that rats and mice
fed  al lib' (apostrophes are mine instead of italics) are the lab rodent
equivalent of couch potatoes.  They eat too much and exercise too little.  A
restricted diet brings them where they should have been in the first place
in this view. - "Auf in den Kampf", Brian, maybe you should drop this
 heretic' a severe note. :)

Although Robert C. Ettinger is mentioned together with six others
prominently in the credits by the author, cryonics is also treated rather
offhandedly:  "Such tales aside, cryonics seems no more unreasonable than
the ancient pharaohs' preparation for afterlife.  Basically those who have
their bodies frozen are making a bet.  They are betting that: (1) their
cause of death can eventually be cured; (2) they can be revived after
storage in liquid nitrogen; and (3) their frozen bodies will be  faithfully
preserved until (1) and (2) can be accomplished.  If they lose the bet, so
what?  They are already dead."  There is no mention of research. Although
Dr. Fahi's research at C21 only got underway at about the time the book was
finalized, the Prometheus Project had already collected pledges for $4
million and , I am sure was mentioned by Robert Ettinger to him.  There was
likewise no allusion to perfusion, staged cool-down, attempts on
vitrification etc.  For all I learned about cryonics in this book, my body
would be tossed into liquid nitrogen like a lettuce leaf is tossed into the
freezer [I can already hear Paul and Charles  grinding out grim grunts of
agreement' :)].

We learn that the Cryonics Institute was formed in 1976, has 180 members and
houses twenty frozen bodies.  "Other organizations have arisen as well, such
as the Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Arizona.  We also learn:
"Laboratory rat hearts have been frozen in liquid nitrogen, then thawed and
started beating again." [None the wiser about Visser :]

I was familiar with almost all aspects of life-extension efforts Ben Bova
mentions in his book, but appreciated to have it all assembled in a
comprehensive package.  However I was intrigued By: "Four months earlier a
pair of Harvard researchers announced that they had grown replacement
organs- including hearts, kidneys and bladders -for lab rats, rabbits and
sheep.  They used the animals' own cells as the starting material, grew new
organs in the laboratory and then implanted them surgically into the

"The two scientists who made the announcement- Anthony Atala and Dario
Fauza- pointed out that one of the earliest uses of their work could be to
correct birth defects while the baby is still in the womb."

I have tried to do a quick search on medline on this to me very interesting
work, but have so far found nothing, probably for lack of pertinent key
words.  This could reduce the need of organ donation and the dangers of
rejection or immune-deficiencies significantly.  If anybody can find out
more about this, I would appreciate a lead-in.

As I said, despite disagreements with some of Bova's evaluations of the
benefits of certain tools for life extension, I am glad I read the book.  It
is rather comprehensive and informative for the lay-person.  It will
hopefully encourage the readers, who have not been exposed to a lot of
information on the subject to do their own research of the available
material and form their own opinions on which means of life extension are
important to them.

The very best wishes to all of you for a joyous festive season and for a
successful and rewarding new year,


Rate This Message: http://www.cryonet.org/cgi-bin/rate.cgi?msg=10970