Friday, March 10, 2017

Microstory 535: Suspended Animation Essentially Achieved


For decades now, many science fiction stories have attempted to tell stories about the unreal through a lens of realism. Writer take a hard position on what’s possible, and try to include real scientific data as much as they can. Sure, for every realistic portrayal of advanced technology, there is an example of something ludicrous. I think we all don’t remember the short-lived series Thunderriders, wherein the characters travel to other planets using inexplicably instantaneous interstellar lightning. Bear in mind that this wasn’t released in the seventeenth century, or something. This was only about twenty years ago, when such nonsense would have been easily debunked by any preliminary school student. There is some fiction, however, that is so revolutionary and innovative that they inspire real inventions. Some have been minor, like the fact that television sets themselves used to be perfect squares, until the primary director of the android matriarch series Motherboard, Osildr Herro—no scientist herself—pointed out that human eyes are evolutionarily designed to see the horizon. She’s famously [mis]quoted as saying, “kaida are too dumb to watch TV...why do we design it for their vertical eyes!” Other fiction-inspired inventions include the use of radar for driverless vehicles in the Whirly Anthology, flexible computer screens from Red Balm comics, and the prediction of a particle accelerator in the 1175 epic, Two Hearts by a River.

The most recent of these extraordinary advances comes in the form of something called suspended animation. While certain astrophysicists are working hard on both discovering, and developing, faster-than-light technology, others are solving the problem of isolation without it. Instead of traveling to an exoplanet using a tensor drive (or with interstellar lightning) a team of researchers at Pathelay-Alben University propose remaining within subluminal speeds. Travelers could theoretically reach the stars in a more realistic timeframe, but not have to actually experience the time it takes to do so. It’s called a sleeper ship, and it keeps its passengers in a deep state of hibernation. While in stasis, travelers do not age, or metabolize. They do not exercise, or interact with each other, or do anything other than sleep. Perhaps they dream. This concept has been a staple in harder science fiction for decades, and the truth is that we’ve been able to put humans in stasis for awhile now. The only problem...is getting them back out. “Cryopreservation,” according to lead scientist Haxel Jones, “is just a fancy way of saying death. That’s the easy part. Our kind has been killing since literally the very beginning. What we couldn’t always do was prevent tiny ice crystals from forming in the body’s system, which ultimately ruptures tissue, and leads to irreversible damage. Now we can.”
Though the team is keeping details secret for now, so as to protect their intellectual property, there are a few things that we know. They have created a perfect formula that places the traveler in suspended animation. One vital role it plays is protecting the body from ice using an otherwise completely harmless new chemical antifreeze. But that can’t be all there is. Different parts of the body will freeze at different rates, and simply injecting the formula into the traveler would never work. And so the team has also devised a delivery system ,with very little room for error, that transforms the body at the exact right pace. While travelers are asleep, an artificial intelligence (one that does not yet exist) would carry the vessel on the journey on its own, and revive them at the right time. More information will be published scientific journals starting next month.

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