X-Message-Number: 899
Date: 12 Jun 92 00:08:02 EDT

(Part 2 of 2)


    April 22, 1992, Alcor held a banquet celebrating both its 20th year of 
existence and the 25th year of cryonics suspension for James Bedford, "The 
First Man Frozen."  But anniversaries come every year -- what was so 
special about this one?

    The entire practice of cryonics is based on WAITING, keeping people 
frozen until future medical technology can revive them;  long-term 
endurance is Alcor's SINA QUA NON.  Twenty years, one fifth of a century, 
is a vintage sufficient to suggest real endurance.

    In honor of this milestone, I emptied my savings, put the bite on my 
friends, tightened my belt, and undertook a pilgrimage to California for 
that single celebratory night.  My train journey was uncomfortable in the 
extreme.  My experiences at journey's end more than compensated.

    Upon entering the Marriott hotel banquet room in Ontario, California, 
I was immediately impressed by the company surrounding me.  Some of these 
people I knew better than others, some I liked better than others, but ALL 
were worthy of my respect.  I found myself rubbing shoulders with eminent 
scientists, self-made millionaires, a popular author, and a host of 
dedicated, intelligent individuals.  Frank Herbert's "fremen" characters 
in his DUNE novels had a saying about such situations:  "Never eat with 
people you would not care to die with."  If we substitute the cryonicist 
term "deanimate" for "die," my evening fit the adage literally.

    Even summarizing my conversations during the banquet would cause this 
article to far exceed its space allotment.  To give you some idea, 
consider that at my table alone were Ralph Merkle (a well-known computer 
scientist at Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center) and Fred Chamberlain (who 
has worked at Pasadena's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the U.S. military's 
weapons disarmament program, as well as being a founder of Alcor), both 
inexhaustible raconteurs.  The closest I managed to a witticism in this 
august crowd occurred when our dinner arrived late -- I commented that 
perhaps we were on the "Roy Walford Diet Plan."  (For those without 
subscriptions to LONGEVITY magazine, Roy Walford is a gerontology 
researcher who discovered that low-calorie diets extended life span in 

    After dinner we were treated to nine brief speeches, any of which 
could have filled an hour with ease.

    Gregory M. Fahy, Ph.D., cryobiologist, addressed the issue of "whether 
being in this room tonight is to any purpose" -- in other words, how 
feasible is cryonics as it's currently practiced?  Dr. Fahy confessed that 
he was comfortable with the notion of cell and tissue repair on a 
molecular level.  His primary worry was that freezing might damage cells 
and tissues beyond the point where any level of technology could deduce 
how they might be repaired.

     He addressed this problem with two sets of experiments.  The first 
involved electron microscope observation of rabbit brain sections frozen 
under conditions generally approximating cryonic suspension.  In this 
case, freezing resulted in well-defined ice crystals, leaving clean, 
unfrayed edges in torn areas.  Rather than "scrambling," damage appeared 
to allow reassembly in the manner of a jigsaw puzzle.

     The second experimental set, completed shortly before the banquet, 
consisted of testing the memory of nematodes (roundworms) that had been 
frozen and revived.  Under Dr. Fahy's direction, Alcor New York's Gerry 
Arthus had "trained" specimens of Caenorhabditis elegans, frozen them, and 
then demonstrated that they still responded to their original training 
(see the May 1992 issue of Alcor New York's newsletter).  While test 
samples were very small and questions remained as to whether the "memory" 
examined was equivalent to that of higher organisms, results were clearly 
NOT negative.

    (In an ideal world, Dr. Fahy's climactic presentation might've capped 
off the evening instead of leading it.  Of course, no one knew what sort 
of scientific rabbits he was going to pull out of his hat this time.)

    Next on the podium was Dr. Ralph Merkle, giving a shortened version of 
his standard nanotechnology speech.  He too brought a pair of interesting 
novelties:  an animated computer-video diagram showing a "bearing cuff" 
designed at molecular scale, and an amusingly reasonable paradigm for 
explaining the scientific nature of cryonics.  "Cryonics is an EXTREMELY 
long-term experiment," Merkle announced.  Cryonics qualifies as a true 
experiment because it possesses both a "control group" and an 
"experimental group."  The experimental group contains individuals who are 
cryonically suspended upon their legal deaths, the control group contains 
everyone else who dies.  So far, there were few results on the 
experimental group;  nothing much had changed with them.  "However, we do 
have some preliminary results on the CONTROL group," Merkle noted.  "THEY 
don't appear to be doing very well."

     On the less technical side, Max More, philosopher and editor of 
EXTROPY magazine, dealt with the pitfalls of cryonics' eventual success.  
If current growth trends continue, within twenty-five years a significant 
portion of the U.S. population might be signed up for suspension.  When 
cryonics becomes a major force, according to Mr. More, it will find 
serious opposition, perhaps among religious groups.  In order to meet this 
challenge, he suggested such measures as developing special interest 
groups in favor of cryonics, lobbying for appropriate legislation, and 
spreading a "philosophical framework" that supports cryonics.

    Just before a break, Master of Ceremonies Paul Genteman (Alcor vice 
president) related an anecdote about Jerry Leaf (a cryonics pioneer now in 
suspension).  In the "old days," Genteman had acted as a surgical 
assistant at a suspension training session.  Once when Genteman's mind 
wandered, Jerry turned to him and said, "Pay attention, Paul.  Someday 
you'll have to do this on ME."

    Saul Kent, President of the Life Extension Foundation, followed with 
an account of his experiences in the cryonics movement's earliest years.  
As secretary of the Cryonics Society of New York in the 1960's, he was 
part of an effort to move away from "blue-skying" toward something 
practical.  To this end, he and CSNY president Curtis Henderson set out in 
October of 1966 on a cross-country tour.  They were determined to get 
people involved in cryonics, investigate reports of activity, and make 
connections between individuals interested in the subject.

    Although their investigations uncovered numerous cases of exaggeration 
or fraud, they also found solid interest.  They spoke with a group at the 
home of Robert Ettinger (author of THE PROSPECT OF IMMORTALITY, the 
seminal work on cryonics) and convinced them to form the Cryonics Society 
of Michigan (now the Immortalist Society and Cryonics Institute).  In 
Arizona they met with a businessman who was manufacturing cryogenic 
capsules, one of which the New Yorkers purchased.  Finally, they talked to 
a group that soon became the Cryonics Society of California, which froze 
the first man a few months later.

    Fred Chamberlain, one of Alcor's founders, talked about the early days 
of the organization.  Twenty years ago Alcor was a "five-week-old infant" 
composed of Fred Chamberlain, Linda Chamberlain, and Fred's seriously ill 
father.  Alcor was formed as an emergency response system for Fred's 
father, because the other Southern California cryonics group at the time, 
Cryonics Society of California, had virtually no provisions for emergency 
suspensions.  The Chamberlains soon acquired basic perfusion equipment, 
wrote a 100-page manual of suspension procedures, and put together some 
loose contracts to use funeral parlors as cryonics facilities.  Alcor grew 
slowly, adding a few members, leasing industrial warehouse space, and 
purchasing a van (known as "Big Al") and an ambulance ("Little Al").  
Still, during the years between 1972 and 1976, Alcor remained almost 

    Linda Chamberlain took up the organization's history from there, 
describing what she called the "Dark Ages of Cryonics."  Under the 
auspices of their for-profit venture, "Manrise Corporation," she and Fred 
developed an early perfusion pump that they hoped would be the basis of an 
entire line of such machines.  Money and space for cryonics work was at a 
premium;  initially they used a workshop crammed into their bedroom.  
Later they considered setting up shop in an unused missile silo in 
Northern California, but abandoned this idea from lack of money.  Although 
they did eventually rent an industrial bay, most of their funds went into 
outfitting "Big Al" (the van) as a suspension lab.  Finally, in July of 
1976, Fred's father deanimated and was suspended as both Alcor's first 
patient and the first neurosuspension patient by any cryonics 

    Alcor's current president Carlos Mondragon spoke briefly of his 
initial involvement with the group.  He came on the scene in 1982, when 
Alcor was still quite small.  At that time the organization was housed in 
the same cramped industrial space as Cryovita Laboratories (Jerry Leaf's 
corporation) in Fullerton, California.  The facility was so tight that 
getting from one side of a room to the other actually required turning 
sideways, not the most ideal arrangement for the medical operating-room 
functions of a suspension.  Of course, Mondragon didn't see an Alcor 
suspension until 1985.

    Next up was Dr. Gregory Benford, physicist and well-known science 
fiction author.  Benford admitted to knowing of Alcor's existence for only 
the last four years, ever since Robert Ettinger wrote him a letter in 
protest to some of his apparently anti-immortalist short stories.  It was 
not long before Benford was convinced of the seriousness of cryonics and 
cryonicists.  In particular he mentioned concern over certain "irrational 
elements" of society's reaction to death.  Frequently outsiders to 
cryonics assume that cryonicists have an extraordinary fear of death, when 
in fact the cryonics approach is more one of HATRED toward death.  Benford 
also spoke of his interest in a project to preserve vanishing segments of 
the environment by freezing different species' cell samples.  He expressed 
frustration over choosing among all the species now being lost:  "We're 
like an illiterate who wandered into the library of Alexandria and noticed 
it was on fire.  How can we know the most important items to save?"

    Mike Darwin rounded out the night with a moving speech about James 
Bedford, the first man frozen (January 27, 1967).  While he admitted never 
having met Bedford, Darwin was able to infer much about the man's 
adventurous and humane spirit.  "We all live by myths," Darwin said.  "In 
the case of Dr. Bedford, the myth may eventually reconstitute the man."

    As the clock neared midnight, the audience had an opportunity to 
question a panel of the evening's speakers.  They discussed the fate of 
early Alcor members that had fallen by the wayside, the implications of 
Dr. Fahy's research, and the financial and social future of Alcor.  (My 
notes on the session are as extensive as they are cryptic.  Unfortunately, 
my two days of train travel were catching up to me at this point, and 
fatigue was clouding my thoughts.  Attempting to extract further detail 
from the situation would be dangerous.)

    All in all, I was encouraged by the overwhelmingly positive attitudes 
of that night.  Individuals from vastly different backgrounds came 
together for a few hours and celebrated their love of life with a rare 
openness.  At the risk of sounding maudlin, I must confess feeling as 
though I were part of a dynamic, caring family.  That April evening left 
me pleased and proud to be an Alcor member.

                                    *  *  *

SCIENCE MATTERS; Achieving Scientific Literacy.   By Robert M. Hazen and 
James Trefil.  Doubleday, 1990.
Review by Steve Bridge

    Let's face it -- few of us know enough science.  Most of us took a few 
required classes in high school two decades or more ago.  You probably had 
a class or two in college.  Maybe you sneaked by with a semester of botany 
and a semester of psychology to fulfill your science requirement.  So you 
don't know much science, yet you're being required to make decisions about 
the world based on what little you DO know.  Global warming, artificial 
intelligence, genetic technology, space stations -- we are being asked to 
support various governmental policies which deal with these concepts.  You 
may well work in a business directly affected by the consequences of these 
decisions.  And we members of Alcor are asking you to consider cryonic 
suspension, based on projections of the next century's technology.  But if 
you don't know RNA from JFK or quarks from kumquats, you are lost in the 
woods of the future, my friend.

    Americans today are some of the most scientifically illiterate people 
in the industrial world.  15% of us believe deeply enough in astrology to 
base some of our decisions on it;  40% think that evolution is just some 
atheist plot;  more than half cannot explain what a molecule is or what 
DNA is for.  Our schools and our media are short on science teachers and 
science knowledge;  most children today don't even get as much knowledge 
as Don Herbert ("Mr. Wizard") gave me 30 years ago.

    But even the scientists are illiterate outside their own specialities.  
The authors of SCIENCE MATTERS are a geologist and a physicist, 
respectively;  so they asked "a group of twenty-four physicists and 
geologists to explain to us the difference between DNA and RNA -- a basic 
piece of information in the life sciences.  We found only three who could 
do so, and all three of those did research in areas where this knowledge 
was useful . . . . The fact of the matter is that the education of 
professional scientists is just as narrowly focused as the education of 
any other group of professionals, and scientists are just as likely to be 
ignorant of scientific matters as anyone else.  You should keep this in 
mind the next time a Nobel laureate speaks EX CATHEDRA on issues outside 
his or her own field of specialization."  (p. xiii)

    OK, so we are all shamefully ignorant of much that is going on around 
us.  But we don't have time to head back to school for science classes.  A 
simple, yet highly pleasurable solution is to read SCIENCE MATTERS.  Hazen 
and Trefil have done a wonderful job summarizing today's basic scientific 
knowledge and putting it into a form any reasonably intelligent person can 

    They do so by proceeding in a logical fashion from a discussion of 
what science is (attempting to "uncover the basic, simple laws that 
produce . . . the regularities of the universe.") through basic physics, 
chemistry, astronomy, geology, biology, to ecology.  Perhaps the most 
impressive element of the book is the way they tie all of this knowledge 
together to show how the seemingly disparate fields are nonetheless bound 
together by basic principles.  For example, nuclear and particle physics 
help to explain both the workings of chemistry and astronomy.  Astronomy 
and chemistry help to explain geology.  Geology and chemistry are 
necessary for an understanding of evolution, biology, and ecology.

    The primary pattern the authors have used is to select an area of 
basic science, list one or two elementary tenets, and summarize science's 
understanding of the area.  For instance, Chapter 3, "Electricity and 
Magnetism" begins with "Electricity and magnetism are two aspects of the 
same force."  From there the discussion proceeds to Maxwell's laws, how an 
electromagnet works, and a description of the electromagnetic spectrum.  
Even this makes the book sound much more difficult than it really is.  The 
writing is clear, the print is large, the examples are practical.  And the 
book is only 294 pages long.

    As cryonicists, as parents, as citizens of the world, we need to 
understand how nature functions.  We are a part of it, for better or for 
worse, and if we wish to go beyond the paltry limits nature has currently 
placed on us, we must understand what we are dealing with.  If we wish for 
this human race even to survive another century, we must understand what 
we are doing to or for the world that gives us life.

    An intelligent and readable book like SCIENCE MATTERS is as good a 
start as I have ever found.

                                    *  *  *

by Richard Shock

    A few months ago, nearly anyone who'd ever contacted Eric Drexler's 
FORESIGHT INSTITUTE received an advertisement informing him or her that 
the American Information Exchange (AMIX) computer system had adopted a 
nanotechnology section.  While not quite the Hypertext arrangement 
everyone might wish, AMIX did allow for a serious exchange of ideas.

    ["Hypertext" is a way of arranging information such that each major 
point of a document has a potential "footnote."  These footnotes in turn 
might have footnotes for their major points, and so on.  For example, if I 
were reading an article on Nanotechnology and wondered what the term 
"Assembler" meant, a hypothetical hypertext system could pop up an 
explanation on my command.  If this explanation happened to contain the 
phrase "flagellar motor," again I might be able to request a definition.]

    Aside from momentary annoyance at another commercial (this one 
impinging on my valuable Compuserve time), I paid the announcement little 
attention.  However, Alcor Indiana member Bob Schwarz got the same ad (via 
US Mail, costing HIM nothing) and was thoroughly intrigued.  Since Bob's 
computer wasn't up to the task of handling AMIX, I agreed to investigate 
for him, under his financing.  [This should give you an idea of the trust 
between Alcor Indiana members -- in effect, Bob was handing me a blank 

    AMIX is one of those systems that requires its own software on your 
machine, not unlike PRODIGY.  Whereas any local Bulletin Board will give 
you access through communications programs such as Telix or Procomm, AMIX 
insists upon seizing total control of your computer for its own cryptic 
purposes.  Perhaps this approach is the way of the future.  I hope not.  
I've always been uncomfortable at the possibility of someone three 
thousand miles away invading my files or reformatting my hard drive.  
Granted, AMIX AND PRODIGY WILL NOT DO THIS.  But less ethical 
organizations could.

    AMIX was a simple branching system of topics and subtopics.  At the 
end of each branch was a specific document section such as 
"Nanotechnology."  Users could purchase a document to read (typically for 
only $1.00), then leave comments about it.  Authors' resumes were 
available online at no extra charge.  (I ignored other functions such as 
consulting services and mail.)


    -- A "Taxi Meter" in the lower right-hand corner of the screen kept 
constant score on what you spent on AMIX time and documents.  I 
appreciated this, since losing track of expenses on commercial computer 
systems has always been a danger for my bank account.  (Of course, the 
Taxi Meter does NOT say anything about long-distance charges.)

    -- AMIX's Nanotechnology section is full of familiar names.  It's 
managed by Chris Peterson (Co-author of UNBOUNDING THE FUTURE and Eric 
Drexler's wife), and includes documents by Drexler, Ralph Merkle (Alcor 
member and computer scientist at Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center), and 
Marc Stiegler (author of the science fiction novella THE GENTLE 


    -- I felt AMIX was SLOW.  (Techies will note that I tested AMIX on a 
386-based machine with a 2400 baud modem.)  Each time I selected an 
option, the software seemed to take forever to accomplish it.  Presumably 
data was being downloaded;  all I know is that the word "WORKING" flashed 
lethargically in the screen's upper right-hand corner.

    -- The Nanotechnology section was sparse.  When I connected on May 5, 
it contained only 16 documents.  Of the six introductions I browsed, three 
were from an issue of FORESIGHT UPDATE that I'd already seen.  With luck, 
this will change.


    AMIX is still early in its development.  While I personally dislike 
its software, I also realize this arrangement may someday support the 
rapid hypertext-style data exchange that could send nanotechnology into 
high gear.  Although the term "nanotechnology" may eventually be stretched 
into oblivion by the broadness of what it entails, its basic concepts will 
certainly contribute to eliminating disease, increasing life span, and 
resuscitating cryonics patients.  The faster this technological explosion 
occurs, the better chance each of us has of seeing the future.

    Skeptic that I am, I'll still be checking into AMIX at least once a 

                                    *  *  *


    Earlier in this issue, very brief mention was made of Roy Walford's 
calorie-reduction/life-extension research.  Before going overboard about 
Dr. Walford's results, however, one might consider the wisdom of the Sufi 
"Father of All Humor," Mulla Nasrudin:

    Nasrudin had a donkey with a voracious appetite.  The Mulla wondered 
whether by gradually decreasing his animal's food every day, it would not 
be possible to condition the beast to more reasonable eating habits.  This 
experiment was continued for several weeks, but then, suddenly, the donkey 
toppled over and died.

    "What a pity," muttered Nasrudin.  "He had just gotten accustomed to 
eating nothing at all."


    [This story SHOULD sound familiar -- it was old seven hundred years 
ago.  The Sufi dervish "Mulla Nasrudin" ("Nazardin" in Afghanistan, 
"Nasir-Ud-Din" in Iran, "Nasreddin Hoca" in Turkey, "Goho" in Egypt, and 
"Abu Nawwas" in Syria) was reputedly the perpetrator or butt of almost 
every joke in Western and Middle-eastern culture.  One who intends to live 
long could do worse than look to immortal humor.]

                                    *  *  *


    ALCOR INDIANA is an unincorporated group of ALCOR suspension members 
who have banded together to help ensure each other's eventual cryonic 
suspension.  Informal monthly meetings are held the second Sunday of each 
month at 2:00 PM, and are open to anyone who calls ahead of time.  
Subscriptions to the semi-monthly ALCOR INDIANA NEWSLETTER are at present 
free of charge.  Contributions are more than welcome.

    For information on ALCOR INDIANA meetings, newsletter subscriptions, 
ALCOR LIFE EXTENSION FOUNDATION, or cryonics in general, call Richard 
Shock (days: (317) 872-3070;  evenings: (317) 769-4252) or Stephen W. 
Bridge ((317) 359-7260).  ALCOR INDIANA COMMUNICATIONS BOARD, a local 
electronic bulletin board, can be accessed between the night hours of 7:00 
PM through 9:00 AM, at (317) 870-5780.

     Mail to Richard Shock, including Newsletter submissions and comments, 
may be sent to 670 S. St. Rd. 421 N., Zionsville IN 46077.  Mail to Steve 
Bridge may be sent to 1208 Charleston E. Dr., Indianapolis IN 46219 or e-
mail to "".  E-mail for Mr. Shock may be sent to 
Mr. Bridge, who will forward it.

                                    *  *  *

                    5723 W. 85th St.
                    Indianapolis, IN 46278

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