Photographer Murray Ballard, among many things he found interesting and took pictures, got interested in cryonics.
From Greek κρύος ‘kryos-‘ meaning ‘icy cold’, cryonics is the low-temperature preservation of animals (including humans) who cannot be sustained by contemporary medicine, with the hope that healing and resuscitation may be possible in the future.
The project combines photographs of the technical processes involved, alongside portraits of the people engaged in the quest to overcome the ‘problem of death’. Whilst members have often been ridiculed for their views, I take an objective stance, allowing the viewer to consider the ethics of the practice, and to decide whether members are caught up in a fantasy world of science fiction, or genuine scientific innovation. (M. Ballard)
Here is a few images from Murray Ballard’s series The Prospect of Immortality (as curated for Impressions Gallery, Bradford, England 2011).
Robert Chester Wilson Ettinger was an American academic, known as “the father of cryonics” because of the impact of his 1962 book The Prospect of Immortality that gave birth to the idea of ‘cryonics’ – the process of freezing a human body after death in the hope that scientific advances might one day restore life. He died in 2011 aged 92. After several days of preparation, Ettinger’s body was frozen, placed in a cryonic capsule, and cooled to −196 °C (−320.8 °F). Ettinger was the institute’s 106th patient.
“Would you like to live forever and ever, here on earth? In the near future this may become a real possibility. The Prospect of Immortality is a sober, scientific, and logical argument founded on the undeniable fact: that a body deep-frozen stands a better chance of being revived than of one rotting in the ground; and that many people who died fifty or a hundred years ago of ‘incurable’ diseases would today be cured.” Robert Ettinger, The Prospect of Immortality
Aaron Drake prepares equipment for cryogenic preservation at Alcor Life Extension Foundation.
This cryostat stores several “items”: four human bodies, one human brain, two dogs, one cat and 40 DNA samples.
Flower box at the Cryonics Institute (CI) in Clinton Township, MI. The institute was established in 1976 by Robert Ettinger. The Cryonics Institute has 1,165 members in total. 164 of those funded members had contracts with Suspended Animation, Inc. for standby and transport. 126 humans, 188 human tissue/DNA samples and 103 pets and 57 pet tissue/DNA samples are cryogenically preserved in liquid nitrogen storage.
No adult human has ever been revived from temperatures far below freezing. Cryonics patients are cared for in the expectation that future technology, especially molecular nanotechnology, will be available to reverse damage associated with the cryonics process.
KrioRus (Russia) is the first and only cryonics company in Eurasia with its own storage facility. A body of a dog arrived from Slovenia. KrioRus boasts having clients/patients from Italy, Holland, Israel, Estonia, Ukraine.
This portable liquid nitrogen cryostat contains the head of 79 year old math teacher from Saint Petersburg, Russia. White-on-black inscription says NITROGEN DANGER.
And this, below, is KrioRus storage facility. Well, I don’t know about you, but I’d feel apprehensive about spending my frozen-after-death-before-thawing 100 years in a place looking like a dilapidated outhouse.
Dr R. Michael Perry, author of Forever for All: Moral Philosophy, Cryonics, and the Scientific Prospects for Immortality.
Die under supervision, be refrigerated and — sometimes in the future — thaw and live again, that’s the idea of cryonics in a nutshell. Sounds good for those who have grown really attached to their mortal flesh, I suppose. No holograms. No super-brains or cyber-twins. Some like the idea of this “gamble” expressing cautious optimism:
“This gamble involves the value of life, the cost of (cryonics), the odds that the technology will work (which seem excellent), and the odds that humanity will survive, develop the technology, and revive people.” — Dr. K. Eric Drexler (originator of molecular nanotechnology), from Engines of Creation, Chapter 9,”A Door to the Future“.
Others are apprehensive and ironic:
“Cryonics is an experiment. So far the control group isn’t doing very well.” — Dr. Ralph Merkle (inventor of public key cryptography), an observation made during public talks about cryonics.
While still others are of the opinion that cryonics enthusiast dismiss as “ugly”:
“When defrosted, all the intracellular goo oozes out, turning your strawberries into runny mush. This is your brain on cryonics.” — Dr. Michael Shermer (historian and founder of Skeptic magazine), “Nano Nonsense and Cryonics,” Scientific American, Sept. 2001