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Long Life #10 -- The Cryonics Institute newsletter -- July 2001

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  • David Pascal
    * Long Life: the Cryonics Institute newsletter July 2001 -- Volume 1, Number 10 * Welcome to Long Life -- the electronic newsletter of the Cryonics Institute.
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 31, 2001
      *

      Long Life: the Cryonics Institute newsletter
      July 2001 -- Volume 1, Number 10

      *

      Welcome to Long Life -- the electronic newsletter of the Cryonics
      Institute. We're here to update you with brief cutting-edge news,
      updates, links, and information about the latest scientific, medical,
      health, anti-aging, and social developments relevant to CI's goal of
      saving, preserving, and extending human life. Long Life may also
      include news about Cryonics Institute events and member activities
      and opinion.We welcome your feedback, and encourage readers to
      forward issues to friends and interested parties

      *

      Contents:

      FROM RUSSIA WITH EXPERTISE
      SLICE OF LIFE
      CI 2001

      AFFORDABLE TIME TRAVEL
      AND THE WINNER IS...
      POLLYWOG BECOMES REMOTE-CONTROL HUMAN ROBOT

      GEEKS ON ICE
      THE WORM TURNS --
      LIFE (EXTENSION) STYLES OF THE RICH AND FAMOUS

      GOOD FOR THE GOOSE, GOOD FOR THE GANDER
      WITH OR WITHOUT RAQUEL
      MAY THE FARCE BE WITH YOU

      "DIGITIZE THIS!"
      HAWKING IN FLIGHT
      HARD TO DIGEST

      QUANTUM LEAP

      *


      FROM RUSSIA WITH EXPERTISE

      The Cryonics Institute, and eventually perhaps the entire cryonics
      movement, took a major step forward earlier this month when Dr. Yuri
      Pichugin -- one of the most qualified and experienced individuals in
      the field of cryobiology as it relates to cryonics -- agreed to
      become the full-time head of CI's Research Department at CI
      headquarters in Michigan.

      Born in the former Soviet Union, Dr. Pichugin began his career in
      cryobiology starting in the 1970's as researcher at the Institute for
      Problems of Cryobiology and Cryomedicine, Kharkov University, the
      largest cryobiology center in the world, situated in what is now the
      Ukraine. Dr. Pichugin has been a supporter and advocate of life
      extension and cryonics most of his adult life, as well as being the
      author of numerous scientific papers, with 36 professional
      publications in established peer-reviewed journals as of 1996.

      In 1994 the Cryonics Institute and the Immortalist Society first
      commissioned research by Dr. Yuri Pichugin, working with Prof.
      Gennadi Zhegunov (Chairman, Dept. of Biology, Kharkov Medical
      University) and other colleagues, to do contract work evaluating a
      number of CI's procedures. His work involving rabbit brain slices
      resulted -- for the first time, we believe -- in obtaining
      coordinated electrical activity in networks of neurons after
      rewarming from liquid nitrogen temperature, using glycerine as the
      cryoprotective agent.

      Recently Dr. Pichugin was employed in cryobiological research that
      involved increasing the viability of rat hippocampal slices after
      various cryopreservation treatments including vitrification. As the
      experimentalist with the Institute for Neural Cryobiology, his
      research efforts on the Hippocampal Slice Cryopreservation Project
      (see below) met with unprecedented success.

      Dr. Pichugin's academic qualifications, years of experience, numerous
      published papers, and previous and current research contributions in
      the area of cryonics-relevant cryobiological research are in many
      respects unique worldwide. CI feels that Dr. Pichugin's work in the
      months and years to come will lead to important progress in patient
      care for CI members, and will produce research results of benefit to
      everyone in the world of cryonics; and indeed CI experimental
      laboratories are already in the process of being expanded, procedures
      used in patient care are already being reviewed, and improvements are
      already being outlined and put on the discussion table.

      With Dr. Pichugin's joining the CI team both as member and as
      Director of Research, the Cryonics Institute now becomes the first
      and only cryonics organization in the world to have a formally
      trained and qualified world-class cryobiologist heading its Research
      wing full-time. CI is delighted to welcome him.


      SLICE OF LIFE

      While looking forward to Dr. Pichugin's future achievements, we'd
      also like to celebrate one of his most recent ones: the completion
      of the Hippocampal Slice Cryopreservation Project. Arguably one of
      the most significant series of experiments in the field since the
      Suda experiments of the Sixties, the Slice Project has reportedly
      managed to vitrify and restore brain slices with 100% -- yes, that's
      correct -- 100% viability after cooling.

      Does that mean that perfected suspended animation for human beings is
      here now? No; but it has never been so tantalizingly close.
      Current results involve viability by K/NA ratios applied to slices of
      brain tissue, and do not mean that human brains as a whole can be
      vitrified and restored without damage -- at least not quite yet --
      because of the differences in dealing with entire organs as opposed
      to simple slices. Also, consistently reproduced results of 100% have
      yet to be achieved. Nonetheless, the HSCP project remains a landmark
      step in the development of, in the areas of both organ preservation
      and possible cryonics applications, and everyone associated with it
      deserves the compliments and thanks of the entire cryonics community.

      In particular Long Life would like to congratulate longtime cryonics
      activist Ben Best. Apart from personally contributing thousands of
      dollars to keep the project going in its earlier stages under the
      able leadership of Paul Wakfer, Mr. Best -- a former President of
      CryoCare, the Canadian Cryonics Society, and currently one of CI's
      most prominent and respected members -- became President of INC (the
      organization responsible for the HCSP) at a crisis point in its
      history. His organizational and fund-raising efforts at that point
      may in their way have been as responsible for the final results
      achieved as Dr. Pichugin's direct work as chief experimentalist. You
      can learn more about the project -- and about Ben Best, cryonics, and
      a number of life-extension-related and other subjects -- by visiting
      Ben's web site at http://www.benbest.com. (And in particular: don't
      miss Ben's top ten articles at
      http://www.benbest.com/personal/topten.html -- his 'the mechanisms of
      aging' is listed by Yahoo as it's number one pick on the subject.)

      Again -- Long Life and the Cryonics Institute would like to thank and
      salute these two men for their superb work and efforts, and to
      congratulate everyone involved with one of the most forward-seeing
      projects in the cryonics field. We hope and believe that the legacy
      of that work will continue with Dr. Pichigin's work at CI, and bring
      us even closer to damage-free preservation of patients till revival.


      CI 2001 -- ANNUAL MEETING

      Like to hear about all the new developments yourself? Members, their
      guests, and prospective members are invited to stop by at CI
      headquarters at Clinton Township, Michigan, on September 30, 2001,
      beginning at one in the afternoon. CI's annual meeting starts an
      hour later at two PM, and the Immortalist Society and magazine
      meeting is after supper. And this year promises to be particularly
      special, because this year we hope to have as our special guests not
      only Doctor Pichugin, and (from Great Britain) novelist and leading
      ECSG official Chrissie de Rivaz, but also CI's Founder and President,
      Robert Ettinger, returning to the place where it all began. So if
      you'd like to meet your fellow members and directors and hear about
      the new directions that the future of cryonics is taking, come on
      down. (And let us know about you're coming -- send an email to CI
      Plant Manager Andy Zawacki at CIHQ@..., so we'll know how many
      are coming and so we'll be able to everything ready and prepared.)


      AFFORDABLE TIME TRAVEL?

      And if you can't make it to Michigan on the 29th -- maybe you can a
      decade or so later. Ronald Mallett, a black theoretical physicist at
      Connecticut University, believes he's found a way to travel to the
      past - cheap. All you have to do is circulate a beam of light
      through an ultra-cold bath of atoms. This slows light, which
      distorts space-time, which distorts time. And more importantly,
      distorts it in a way that most any medium-size lab can do it.

      Time travel has always been theoretically possible, the only problem
      being practical application. Famed physicist Frank Tipler once
      worked out a method that involved rotating a galaxy either clock-wise
      or counter-clock-wise. However, this required the construction of a
      really really large merry-go-round to stick the galaxy on, which made
      getting the necessary funding difficult). On the other hand,
      circulating light through an ultra-cold atom solution -- an `Einstein-
      Bose condensate' -- is something so comparatively easy to do that you
      can virtually do it at home in a garage.

      And Mallett's associates at Connecticut University are doing it
      (though not in a garage). Experiments are already scheduled for the
      (ahem) near future: "With this device, time travel becomes a
      practical possibility," says Dr. Mallett. "I'm not saying it's easy,
      but we're not talking about exotic technology here; we're not talking
      about creating wormholes in space." And indeed after Mallett gave
      his first talk on the subject at the University of Michigan after an
      invitation by astrophysicist Fred Adams, the considered response was
      markedly positive. "The reception was cautious and skeptical," Adams
      admitted. "But there were no holes punched in it either. The
      solution is probably valid."

      Is time travel here? Should you pack yourself and the wife and kids
      into the camper and take off? Or merely the mother-in-law? Only
      time will tell. While you wait, read about it at
      http://www.newscientist.com/features/features.jsp?id=ns22911.


      AND THE WINNER IS...

      Missed the Oscars? Good for you! Everyone who's anyone these days
      knows that the Webbys are where it's at: a quick hop to
      http://www.wired.com/news/culture/0,1284,45384,00.html?tw=wn20010721
      will show you the movers and shakers of the online world a-drip in
      glitz. But for those of you who prefer substance to style, Long Life
      would like to list the Judge's Picks for the very best web sites on
      the net, and let you judge for yourself:

      Activism: AdBusters (http://www.adbusters.org/)
      Arts: WebStalker (http://www.backspace.org/iod/iod4Winupdates.html)
      Broadband: Video Farm (http://www.videofarm.com/)

      Commerce: BabyCenter (http://www.babycenter.com/?CP_bid= )
      Community: Café Utne (http://cafe.utne.com/cafe/)
      Education: Merriam-Webster Word Central (http://www.wordcentral.com/)

      Fashion: Paul Smith (http://www.paulsmith.co.uk/)
      Film:Atom Films (http://www.atomfilms.com/)
      Finance: Gomez.com (http://www.gomez.com/)

      Games: Gamespy (http://www.gamespy.com/)
      Health: Thrive Online (http://thriveonline.oxygen.com/)
      Humor: The Onion (http://www.theonion.com/)

      Kids: Scholastic.com (http://www.scholastic.com)
      Living: Epicurious (http://www.epicurious.com/)
      Music: Napster (http://www.napster.com/)

      News: Jim Romenesko's Media News (http://www.poynter.org/medianews/)
      Personal Web Sites: Cocky Bastard (http://www.cockybastard.com/)
      Politics and Law: Politics.com (http://www.politics.com/)

      Print and Zines: Nerve (http://www.nerve.com/)
      Radio: Lost and Found Sound (http://www.npr.org/programs/lnfsound/)
      Science: The Cave of Lascaux
      (http://www.culture.fr/culture/arcnat/lascaux/en/)

      Services: Evite (http://www.evite.com)
      Sports: ESPN (http://espn.go.com/main.html)
      Technical Achievement: Google (http://www.google.com/)

      Travel: Outside (http://www.outsidemag.com/)
      OnlineTelevision: MSNBC (http://www.msnbc.com/news/default.asp)
      Weird: Stile Project (http://www.stileproject.com/)

      (This reporter's recommendations? The Onion at
      http://www.theonion.com/ will give you a laugh, and Gomez at
      http://www.gomez.com/ will save you a dollar. And
      http://www.cryonics.org will give you a lot of time in which to enjoy
      them.)


      POLLYWOG BECOMES REMOTE-CONTROL HUMAN ROBOT

      And-speaking-of-webbies: rave favorite DJ 'Pollywog' was hired by
      the Webby organizers for what may be a new job trend: dressing up
      humans in retro-chic technology and hiring them to carry out other
      humans' commands as though they were robots. Carrying a camera and
      audio, Pollywog became the Webby Awards official 'tele-actor' -- by
      registering on tele-actor.net, participants could tell the pseudo-
      robo what to do and see the result on their home monitor.

      "The problem with robots -- and I've been working with them for 15
      years -- is they're not very reliable," explained Ken Goldberg,
      engineering professor at the University of California and the project
      director. Dinesh Pai, a professor of computer science at the
      University of British Columbia, agreed. "We take a lot of what
      humans do for granted -- extremely simple things like picking up an
      object. A two-year-old can do that. Telling a robot to do that is
      very hard," he observed.

      Will humans ultimately replace robots? All Long Life knows is that
      when Pollywog was told to steal, eat the dinner of a distinguished
      guest, and lead the humans in a sing-along, she did so with genuine
      aplomb, and when you tell your Ford Pinto to thieve, eat, and sing 'I
      Left My Heart In San Francisco', it just sits there. Maybe human
      beings have a future after all.


      GEEKS ON ICE

      Having reached perhaps 100 million people worldwide through ABC
      Evening News with Peter Jennings, the cryonics movement has now
      broken through to even more glittering heights with the appearance in
      Wired News of 'Cryonics Over Dead Geeks' Bodies', an article by
      journalist Michelle Delio. Ms. Delio's article (available for
      viewing at http://www.wired.com/news/culture/0,1284,45188,00.html)
      records the reactions of Heather Pringle, author of 'The Mummy
      Congress', a history and study of the mummification process.

      In investigating modern-day practices in the area, Ms. Pringle came
      across cryonics and was quite surprised. Notes the article: "When
      she began to research the chapter on modern mummification, she [Ms.
      Pringle] visited cryogenic labs, expecting to find that the client
      list would include 'your new-age crowd, people with strange ideas
      about the body and soul and maybe with bizarre beliefs about
      immortality and eternity. Kind of a well-heeled version of the folks
      who believe Elvis lives'."

      On the contrary: the cryonics crowd were highly educated, tech-
      oriented, science-literate people whose decisions were based on,
      shall we say, cold logic. "The Silicon Valley crowd has an enormous
      faith in technology and the science of progress. They believe that
      you can conquer just about any problem if you throw enough money and
      technology after it -- so why not immortality?" Pringle noted
      that "unlike many of us," tech-oriented people actually welcome the
      future, and wouldn't mind living in it.

      Ms. Pringle then went on to speak to nanotech legend and longtime
      cryonics activist Ralph Merkle (http://www.merkle.com). "Merkle,"
      she noted, "firmly believes that current suspension methods can
      preserve the structures in the human brain that encode long-term
      memory and personality."

      "The synapses are still there, the neurons are still there, the
      dendrites are still there -- all present and accounted for. Thus, at
      some point in the future, a medical technology based on a mature
      nanotechnology should be able to restore good health with memory and
      personality intact," observed Dr. Merkle.

      Ms. Pringle did have some reservations. "The technological problems
      in doing this seem just staggering to me, particularly for people who
      go the economy-class route, having only their heads preserved," she
      observed, citing the case of one Ontario computer programmer who
      observed that "with the current exchange rate for Canadian dollars"
      he can't afford to have his entire body preserved.

      Nor was Ms. Pringle very partial to the sort of the scrawny-chested
      material that cryonics is sending boldly into futurity. "Instead of
      preserving the finest physical specimens of 21st-century humanity --
      the athletic, the attractive, the physically fit, the Adonis and
      Venus de Milo types whose bodies are so well deserving of eternity --
      we seem to be conserving geeks with taped-up glasses and bad
      haircuts, people whose idea of dinner ranges only a little further
      than Frito-Lays, Cheetos and Jolt," she noted. Which may be the
      first recommendation in cryonics history to preserve just bodies, and
      get rid of the heads. (Admittedly, a potential improvement in some
      cases.)


      THE WORM TURNS --

      -- your hard drive into mush, if you're not careful. A particularly
      vile example of such programming art is criss-crossing the internet
      in such volume that Long Life feels obliged to warn readers about
      it. The virus, called `Sircam', arrives in one's email box with the
      following message --


      Hi! How are you?

      I send you this file in order to have your advice

      See you later. Thanks


      -- and it's accompanied by an attached file. Beware: *do not* open
      the attached file. Not only will doing so gradually eat away the
      data in your hard drive, this particular virus will open your email
      address book and send itself to the email addresses you have in it.
      And since all the people in your address book probably have you in
      theirs, a series of the stuff will keep bouncing back at you. Read
      about Sircam at
      http://www.wired.com/news/technology/0,1282,45427,00.html?
      tw=wn20010721 -- and take care.


      LIFE (EXTENSION) STYLES OF THE RICH AND FAMOUS

      Many a cryonicist has often dreamed of some grotesquely wealthy
      capitalist somewhere seeing the light and giving time, attention, and
      (much needed) financial support to the cryonics effort. And in fact
      donations and contributions, and often large ones, have been directly
      responsible for much of the progress that cryonics has made. Nearly
      every organization has benefited mightily owing to the generosity of
      some few of its members, and independent research efforts, such as
      the HSCP, has made astounding strides from donations that numbered,
      not in millions, but in mere thousands. The growth of cryonics has
      in may ways been a grass-roots movement. But are the super-rich
      beginning to take notice at last?

      Bill Gates' faceless minions, for instance, are currently preparing a
      10,000 square foot, tomblike facility in rural Pennsylvania to
      preserve (among other things) a picture of Albert Einstein's tongue
      in specially engineered, subzero temperature rooms -- a first in the
      history of photo preservation.

      The project -- called The Bettmann Archive -- is scheduled to open in
      2002, and operate at minus four degrees Fahrenheit. And its purpose
      is to serve as repository of more than 11 million historic
      photographs and negatives -- including such iconic images as Einstein
      sticking out his tongue and the Wright Brothers in flight. The goal
      of the Archive (see
      http://www.wired.com/news/culture/0,1284,45379,00.html?tw=wn20010724)
      is to preserve the actual historic photographs for 500 to 1,000
      years, and to that end Gates has hired food industry giants such as
      Sara Lee to advise on the preservative capacity of various extreme
      cold storage options. But one has to wonder whether the thought of
      preserving something more important than a picture of Einstein's
      tongue might just cross Bill's mind.

      There's little doubt that 'The Other Software Billionaire', Larry
      Ellison is interested in survival. The 55-year-old CEO of Oracle is
      now the single largest private supporter of research in aging.
      According to an article reprinted in The Immortalist
      (http://www.cryonics.org/info.html), Ellison, who's shown a lifelong
      fascination with science and aging -- preferring the former to the
      latter -- is funding research into things as diverse as biotech,
      DHEA, and the anti-aging research of figures such as Cynthia Kenyon
      (who recently extended the life span of worms 300%). Ellison has
      even been known to hang out with card-carrying Extropians such as
      Robert Bradbury of Aeiveos.

      As progress in nanotechnology and vitrification continues to
      accumulate, will the medical and even the sheer commercial
      possibilities begin to catch the eye of the major players in venture
      capitalism?

      Maybe.


      GOOD FOR THE GOOSE, GOOD FOR THE GANDER

      The anti-impotence drug Viagra works for young women as well as men,
      according to -- what else? -- an Italian study. Previous studies had
      been equivocal about the benefits of the drug for female sexual
      dysfunction, but Salvatore Caruso and colleagues at the University of
      Catania in Italy studied 53 women in their twenties, a not uncommon
      researc effort among University residents. These women, however,
      were randomly separated in three groups. One group took 25 milligram
      doses of Viagra each week over three four-week periods. The second
      took 50 mg, while the third received a placebo.

      The women then were asked to groan -- er, rate -- their arousal,
      orgasms, enjoyment, and sexual fantasies on a five point scale.
      Average arousal scores for the women who started taking Viagra shot
      up from 1.5 to 4.2, for both drug doses. Scores of the women taking
      the placebo rose only to 2.6. Scores on frequency of intercourse,
      number of orgasms and overall sexual satisfaction also increased
      dramatically in the women taking Viagra, compared with the women
      taking the placebo.

      "Our results demonstrate that sildenafil [Viagra] may directly
      improve female arousal disorder and thus other sexual qualitative
      functions such as enjoyment and orgasm," Caruso's team wrote in the
      British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. See
      http://www.newscientist.com/dailynews/news.jsp?id=ns9999803, and then
      invest in Viagra-producing pharmaceutical companies, quick.


      WITH OR WITHOUT RAQUEL

      When pop journalists write about nanotech, the invariable picture
      they send is of a very tiny robotic-looking Mr. Fix-It shoring up a
      bad cell some fifty years from now with a teeny hammer, nails, and
      duct tape. It won't be quite like that, of course. Mostly because
      nano-scale medicine isn't fifty years in the future -- it's here
      right now.

      Academic and industry scientists said at the International Biotech
      and Infotech Summit that researchers have designed nano-scale tools
      so small they can chew up or explode bio-warfare agents on the
      molecular level, or make a single molecule glow so brightly that you
      can see it with only the help of a microscope. "We are not talking
      about Fantastic Voyage, with or without Raquel Welch," said James
      Baker, director of the Center for Biological Nanotechnology at the
      University of Michigan. Baker's Michigan lab is developing a mini-
      technology to target cancer cells, select a treatment, and document a
      tumor's response to the agent. In a partnership with the Pittsburgh
      Supercomputing Center, the lab has already built a nano-scale device
      that, when injected into rodents, was absorbed exclusively by cancer
      cells.

      Baker's lab also made a lucky discovery when it tried to find a way
      to carry bacteria with a nanotechnology they built called a "nano-
      emulsion." It didn't work. The nano-emulsion killed the bacteria.
      Then someone figured out that a tool that could destroy bacteria was -
      - um -- maybe a good thing, huh?

      To test the discovery, they gave rodents a series of lesions and
      injected the wounds with spores, a type of bacteria that is "very
      tough and very hard to kill," said Baker. They treated some of the
      wounds with saline; the rodents died. They treated the other
      rodents' wounds with a solution containing the nano-emulsion, and the
      wounds began to heal.

      It may not have Raquel Welch. But it is nano-scale. And it is
      here. Check it out at
      http://www.wired.com/news/medtech/0,1286,43975,00.html.


      MAY THE FARCE BE WITH YOU

      A barrage of email in New Zealand attempted to persuade residents to
      list their religion as 'Jedi' in the national census under religion.
      And at least 142 have done so, to date, somewhat to the displeasure
      of the New Zealand bureaucracy. "It is unlikely we would take action
      against a person recording Jedi as his/her religion, since, unless
      there was evidence to the contrary we have to assume it is that
      person's genuine belief," said Australia' census manager, John
      Struik, adding "but whether Jedi becomes a new category in the
      classification will depend more on other criteria, such as the
      existence of a formal organization structure rather than on number of
      responses."

      As the faith spread to other outposts of The Empire, however, not
      every Storm Trooper was as civil. "The Australian Bureau of
      Statistics responded by threatening fines to people who put 'Jedi' as
      their religion," wailed Luke Housego of 'Jedi Australia' in an e-
      mail. " We feel we are Jedi," he said, adding, "Star Wars gave us
      our spirituality. It is the basic text that, when learning the Bible,
      Torah or whatever, we referenced to for a concept of a deeper self.
      Obi-Wan taught me mysticism, not St. John of the Cross."

      The Force was strong in that one, but also in others: "I love the
      idea that in the next 10 years if someone looks at the official
      statistics for the U.K., they could see that a percentage of the
      population claim to be Jedi," noted one British disciple of Yoda.

      Help us, Obi-Wan Kenobi. You're our only hope.


      "DIGITIZE THIS!"

      The Web has started coming into use as a way to crack down on the bad
      guys, and the bad guys (and not a few good guys) are fighting back.
      Arizona's Joe Arpaio, known as 'America's Toughest Sheriff', has not
      only got a 'Vacancy' sign on the watchtower of his prison, he's
      installed webcams throughout the joint to keep an eye on the
      inmates. Sheriff Joe gives his views on togetherness in stir at
      http://www.wired.com/news/culture/0,1284,42872,00.html?
      tw=wn20010407.

      Meanwhile in Tampa, Florida, a new security system is scanning faces
      in the city's crime-ridden nightlife district, which attracts 75,000
      to 150,000 people on weekends, to search for wanted persons. The
      FaceIt scanning system snaps pictures of faces in the crowd and
      compares them to a database of 30,000 people that includes runaway
      teens and wanted criminals. It works by analyzing 80 facial points
      between the nose, cheekbones and eyes. Appreciative citizens have
      taken to wearing masks, hoods, Groucho Marx moustaches, and making
      obscene gestures at the cameras. "Being watched on a public street
      is just plain wrong," said May Becker, wearing a bar code sticker on
      her forehead. "We're under house arrest in the land of the free."
      One protester walked by a camera, made a evocative gesture and
      shouted "Digitize this!" during a recent protest. To date the system
      has led to no arrests, which is no doubt why Virginia Beach,
      Virginia, is seeking a $150,000 state grant for a similar system.

      The People are fighting back in more tech-savvy ways, however.
      Kirkland, Washington officials are trying hard to stop a local
      website from posting personal information about members of its police
      department. The site operators say the info was legally obtained, and
      have no intention of backing off. See
      http://www.wired.com/news/politics/0,1283,42865,00.html?tw=wn20010406


      HAWKING IN FLIGHT

      Is there a life extensionist anywhere who can't take inspiration from
      the life of Stephen Hawking, not only a star of stage, screen, Star
      Trek, and numerous campus T-shirts, but also one of the most gifted
      physicists of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries -- while at
      the same time being nearly completely paralyzed and confined to a
      wheel chair.

      Hawking -- diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's Disease (amyotrophic lateral
      sclerosis, or ALS) at the age of 21 was expected to live perhaps two
      years. Now 59, married, wealthy, and world-famous, Hawking is unable
      to speak except through a computer-generated voice box that he
      controls with the one finger of his body that remains partially
      unparalyzed. He nonetheless drew a packed house of 1,500 at the
      University of Southern California, with many more turned away. "I
      can safely say that I am happier now than I was before my condition
      appeared," he said.

      Hawking's first mass-market book, A Brief History of Time, was the
      best-selling science book of the 20th century, and his speech touched
      on it and on the subject of long life -- not merely his own, but that
      of the universe. Is the universe is everlasting and infinite or just
      extremely long-lived -- and should we even bother trying to
      understand it? "How can our finite minds comprehend the universe? It
      is pretentious of us to even make the attempt," he said, -- but
      added: "At the risk of incurring the fate of Prometheus, who stole
      fire from the ancient gods for human use, I believe we can, and
      should, try and understand the universe."


      HARD TO DIGEST

      Dismay at genetically modified foods is getting a trifle strident in
      India, where nearly 500 million people are vegetarians. Not wishing
      to see the act of eating broccoli turned into a 'moo'-ving
      experience, vegetarians are banding together to ban meat protein
      molecules deliberately injected into their greenery. See
      http://www.wired.com/news/culture/0,1284,42996,00.html?
      tw=wn20010416.

      And speaking of deliberation: last year's accidental release of
      genetically modified corn by the product developer led to much media
      uproar. The product, having cleaned up its act (and not a few ears
      of corn) is now asking the Environmental Protection Agency to relax
      its standards and send the stuff out again. No dice: the EPA
      refused, saying the crop is not yet been proven safe. See
      http://www.wired.com/news/culture/0,1284,42996,00.html?
      tw=wn20010416.

      In other tummy-related news, research scientists have discovered that
      when you give selected graduate students free marijuana and junk
      food, the students in question will smoke a lot of marijuana and eat
      a lot of junk food. This astonishing phenomenon has nonetheless led
      certain of the researchers to claim that the pot-hunger link could
      lead to drugs (the legal sort) that may help people gain -- or lose --
      weight, depending on the person's preference. Get the details at
      http://www.wired.com/news/technology/0,1282,43005,00.html?
      tw=wn20010412.


      QUANTUM LEAP

      In the journal 'Science', physicists from IBM's Thomas J. Watson
      Research Center announced the fabrication of the world's first array
      of transistors made from carbon nanotubes. The announcement has been
      hailed as surpassing the breakthroughs of the late 1940s, when
      scientists first began developing the bipolar transistor, the device
      that spawned the computer age.

      The problem is that conventional silicon technology is approaching a
      dead end. "I can't imagine a silicon transistor that doesn't contain
      a few million atoms, even in the far future," said IBM's Tom Theis,
      director of physical science research. But the kinds of transistors
      that could be made out of nanotubes could consist of a thousand -- a
      hundred! -- atoms. "So," said Theis, "we're talking about devices
      that are drastically smaller, and because their key components are
      fabricated by chemical synthesis, they can be drastically cheaper
      than silicon transistors."

      There's more. Since they're a thousand times stronger than steel and
      can serve as both transistors and wires, nanotubes may indeed be the
      ultimate last step in conventional computing technology. "What
      certainly is going to happen is that these nanotubes are going to be
      used in damned near any area you can think of where electrons move
      from here to there," said Nobel Prize winner Richard Smalley.

      A nanotube is a long hollow cylindrical molecule composed of carbon
      and with a typical width of only 10 times the size of an individual
      atom. It was discovered in 1991, and in 1998 several teams of
      researchers began studying the possibility of using nanotubes in
      nanoscale transistors, transistors being the basic elements in a
      computer.

      The problem was that making nanotubes typically produced not only
      semiconductor nanotubes but also scads of metallic nanotubes, which
      can't be used in transistors. So researchers had to pick up the
      desirable semiconductor nanotubes one by one, using atomic force
      microscopes.

      But IBM scientists Philip G. Collins, Michael S. Arnold and Phaedon
      Avouris exploited the fact that metallic nanotubes shatter if enough
      current is run through them.

      "With the proper sequence of electrical pulses, we're able to fuse
      out the tubes that are wires -- the ones we don't want -- and pick
      out the ones that are semiconducting," IBM's Theis said. "They've
      come up with a recipe that anyone can follow that will allow you to
      make many thousands of these transistors simultaneously on a silicon
      substrate."

      What's it mean? Ultimately, perhaps a *million times* more computer
      and computing ability in every square inch of computer hardware we
      have now. And at less cost.

      Will mankind be able to play a really good game of 'Pong' or 'Space
      Invaders' then? You better believe it.


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