Archive | December 2012

Cryogenics – Can it Be Part of Mankind’s Future?

Cryogenic Studies Treading on Thin Ice

Futurama's Fry

The resurgence of Matt Groening’s popular side project Futurama, given the green light for another three series after an eight year hiatus, reminds us all of a science which is rarely given the virtue of credibility it deserves: Cryogenic freezing. Regular readers will know that this topic is almost taboo in the scientific realm.

Whilst Futurama does well to simplify such an incongruous scientific field for the sake of comedy, as has Sylvester Stallone’s action thriller Demolition Man and Mike Myers spy comedy Austin Powers, few people realise that the notion of freezing a human being cryogenically is something that has been extensively looked into since the early 1960’s.

The notion of cryogenics was first conceived in late 1964 by Robert Ettinger, a college physicist after fighting in World War Two for the USA. He wrote a self published book titled, The Prospect of Immortality, outlining the rationale and methods of cryonics. He sent it to over 200 people who featured on a ‘Who’s Who in America’ list at the time in order to get publicity. Isaac Asimov, a highly regarded physicist at the time, gave Ettinger’s book credibility by stating that his theories were feasible and well backed up.

Shortly after Ettinger’s non-fiction book, Evan Cooper founded the world’s first cryogenic society, the Life Extension Society (LES), in 1963 which still runs today. However Cooper himself quit the field in 1970, stating he became jaded by a study which reaped no rewards in terms of advancement.

So why, after 50 years, are we still unsure of the process of cryogenics?

The scientific study of cryonics has been met with much criticism, legal issues, court reforms and bad press since its conception. Robert Nelson established the Cryonics society of California in the mid 60’s in the city of Chatsworth. He took on anyone who was willing to be frozen and kept them hidden in a crypt whilst he sought to pioneer the technology to successfully thaw them alive. He could not maintain the cryopreservation due to poor revenue and so his crypt was uncovered to the public. His patients had to be thawed which led to their deaths. This led to the common phrase in cryogenic circles, ‘The Chatsworth Disaster’. Due to the fact that studies yield no concrete evidence that suggest it can be done, whilst maintaining a financial foothold, the majority of the scientific community dropped studying cryogenics.frozen man

It was the Chatsworth disaster that instigated a split in the late 1970’s, as the ‘The Society for Cryobiology’ sought to disassociate cryobiology (study of animals at low temperatures) and cryonics (study of unsustainable humans at low temperatures), condemning any scientist’s efforts to conjoin the two. Mainstream media also played a part in halting the progress of cryonics as scientists began to view the idea as pure fantasy: cue Matt Groening.

Who knows what the future holds for Cryopreservation. At present only five companies in the world openly operate as a cryogenic facility – only one resides outside of the US (Russia). The nature of the field is such that it could be another year before we establish technology to freeze and thaw humans, or it could take another century.

Would you like to be Cryogenically frozen?

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Is James Bond Good or Bad? Casino Royale by Ian Fleming – A Review

Daniel Craig as James Bond

Daniel Craig looking bad ass.

James Bond’s First Mission as 007

Given the impressive release of Skyfall (2012), the 23rd Eon produced James Bond film; Daniel Craig’s 3rd outing as the British spy, and the 50th anniversary of the franchise, I decided to start reading the books to get a feel for who the real Fleming-inspired James Bond really is.

A common misconception is that Dr No is Bond’s first mission due to the first screen adaptation with Sean Connery. However, Fleming’s first book in the spy series in Casino Royale is referenced throughout the story as Bond’s first mission as a British Secret Service agent.

After working as Assistant to the Director of Naval Intelligence during the Second World War, Fleming set out to write the spy stories to beat all spy stories. Living in his Jamaican home, which he built and named ‘Goldeneye’, Fleming wrote Casino Royale in two months.

Upon its publication in 1954, the book had sold out its print runs in the first, second and third months of its release. Whilst sales in the US were very slow, the UK couldn’t get enough of its new Cold War era hero.

Authir Ian Fleming

Ian Fleming with For Your Eyes Only

In his first mission as a double-O, Bond is tasked with bankrupting Le Chiffre at the casino in Royale-Les-Eaux, who is bankrolling the Russian counter-intelligence organisation SMERSH (literal meaning in Russian as Death to Spies). M., the head of British Intelligence, sends Vesper Lynd to assist Bond in his mission, as well as Rene Mathis from French Intelligence and Felix Leiter from the C.I.A.

The story is well known to contemporary Bond fans, thanks to Daniel Craig’s first film, so I was keen to see if there were many different aspects to the book than the film, as there often are.

In short, there isn’t. The film stayed pretty close to the core of the story. The main deviations were in there openings, as Fleming chose to start with Bond playing in the casino rather than perform a vast array of stunts, jumps and chases. Dr No started very similarly to Casino Royale where the first image of Sean Connery as Bond was playing the winning card in a game of Baccarat whilst smoking a cigar.

After just three chapters, it was clear that Fleming nailed the art of keeping the readers interest for the duration. Every chapter finished with a major event which moved the story forward dramatically, maintaining a fast pace to the narrative.

A marked difference in Bond’s character is his attitude towards women. When he first hears of Vesper’s assistance he immediately frowns and says that women have no place on a mission of such importance and that she should be in the kitchen where a woman belongs!

The finest part of the book is when Vesper is kidnapped and Bond chases after her. He gets caught himself in the process – this is his first mission after all – he gets tortured and blacks out.

From here Fleming gets very philosophical and creates a moral quandary in Bond’s head – is he a good man doing an immoral job or a bad man doing whats right for his country?

This very theme is what drives Daniel Craig’s Bond in Skyfall, and leaves the audience feeling torn as to whether he is the conventional hero we’ve come to expect.

What do you think? Is James Bond a good or bad guy?

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia: The Best Sitcom Out Right Now?

Season 8 Promo

Season 8 Promo

I started watching this American sitcom over the summer, after seeing seven seasons available on Netflix, and found It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia compulsively hilarious viewing. As a result, I thought I’d write a quick post to spread the word of this comedy gem.

The show follows Charlie Kelly (Charlie Day), Dennis Reynolds (Glenn Howerton), Deandra “Sweet Dee” Reynolds (Kaitlin Olsson) and Mac (Rob McElhenney) who all own ‘Paddy’s Pub’, an Irish bar in Philadelphia.

The four narcissistic, self-centred, money-grabbing pals constantly come up with ludicrous get-rich-quick schemes whilst doing the best they can to double cross each other in their deceitful and childish ways. From season two onwards,  Dennis and Dee’s father Frank Reynolds (Danny De Vito) joins the gang and gives the show some status with an A-list Hollywood actor too.

One of the best things about the show is it’s dark, immoral and awkward-situation humour. Fans of Curb Your Enthusiasm will know all about these themes but Its Always Sunny takes it to a whole new level as the characters we connect with and love, don’t have any empathy, moral integrity or understanding of society outside of “The Gang”.

In the episode “The D.E.N.N.I.S System” Dennis describes his system of luring girls to have sex with, thus creating his ‘Playboy’ image he has cultivated for himself.

This snippet above represents the sheer egotistical arrogance of Dennis and his vulgar father in Frank. The video below, from the episode “The Gang Buys a Boat”, is a great example of Dennis hatching a plan thats so morbidly ridiculous to everyone else, but in its head it’s perfectly fine.

In possibly one of my favourite episodes I have seen, the gang help Frank and Charlie, who sleep together on a futon, solve the mystery of who pooped the bed. Mac and Dennis decide to do some overnight surveillance but end up falling asleep. Then in the morning…

The show is currently airing its eighth season on FX but probably won’t be shown in the U.K. for some time. If only there was some way of watching it online…

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