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   Author  Topic: FAQ: Cryonics, medical or embalming technology?  (Read 9506 times)
Hermit
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Re:FAQ: Cryonics, medical or embalming technology?
« Reply #15 on: 2002-07-20 16:32:19 »
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[Lucifer 1]
[Hermit 2]
[Lucifer 3]
[Hermit 4]
[Lucifer 5]
[Hermit 6]


[Hermit 4.1] Trick question and false trichotomy. The problem is one of retrieval rather than preservation. Retrieval of information stored in the brain is made impossible by cellular death. Thus the information is already lost at the point when the body is frozen, burnt or rots. So the correct answer is d, "none of the above preserves retrieval of information stored in the brain." In my opinion, until we have working uploading available, no technique will preserve such information.

[Lucifer 5] How can you be sure that the information in a frozen brain will be lost to technology available in the future? It seems your whole argument against cryonics hinges on this belief. It is you that is making an exceptional claim here. You say you are not foolish enough to say never, yet here you are implying it.

[Hermit 6] In theory, it comes down to a question of whether either voltage regulated channels (Calcium channels) or charge potentials (EPSP) are involved in maintaining long term memories - a little understood area  which is still undergoing investigation and stimulating acrimonious acedemic debate. I recommend the papers referenced in http://www.the-scientist.com/yr1999/mar/russo_p1_990301.html to your attention (and further note that Tyan (2002) has supported the role of the NMDA receptor in long term memory).

[Hermit 6] In any case, irrespective of exact long term memory storage mechanism, it has been shown that long-term memories can be disrupted, injected, eliminated and modulated by charge injection, potential excitation and magnetic manipulation. Thus charge and potential are both implicated in long-term storage. And we know that charge and potential will decay due to environmental interaction at all temperatures above 0K in the absence of replenishment - which requires an energy source and mechanism. Neither of the latter is present in a corpse stored at LN2 temperatures.

[Hermit 6] Thus, for empirical reasons, I suspect that the electrical neuron is dependent on its 80mV potential to maintain the K+/Na+ balance, while the chemical neuron is dependent on its charge to manage Ca+ migration. As noted, any non-replenished potential or charge field will dissipate fairly rapidly over time at any temperature over 0k (and seeing that cryonics seems primarily to be holding bodies at the temperature of LN2, this is not the case), and even at 0k, quantum effects and neutron interactions will result in eventual field equalization unless the charges are anchored by some external force. A force that is not present in a cadavar, even a cryonically embalmed one.

[Hermit 6] So is this a "belief" or a substantially supported position? I would say the latter. We can't, no matter what ubertechnologies we invent at some unknown time in the future, restore charges which have dissipated, as we will have no way of knowing what they should be restored to. I would suggest that until physics is refuted or the magical invisible charge stabilization mechanism which cryonicists imagine is preserving memory is explained, that the exceptional claim lies firmly in the beliefs of the cryonicists (So far as I know, revival of a cryonic cadavar has not been achieved and thus supporting evidence is absent making "belief" a more appropriate term for their opinions than for mine). After all, strange claims to the contrary notwithstanding, last-time I looked, entropy still ruled at all levels above the quantum.

[Lucifer5] The people signed up for cryonics are making a perfectly reasonable assumption that freezing the brain has a better chance of recovering the information than rotting or burning or any other option. They are not saying the probability is high, or likely, just that it is greater. Do you really disagree?

[Hermit 6] I agree that if there were a possibility of recovering the "self" from a cadavar, that cryonics would offer a better chance than the other options described. I would also say that the possibility is so small to vanishing as to be effectively similar to being able to restore the "self" from an Egyptian mummy.

[Hermit 6]  Against this, if you want to play with probabilities unanchored by evidence, then it is also worthwhile examining those probabilities which are so anchored.

[Hermit 6] Humans and their recognizable relatives have been around for somewhere upward of 7.8 million years and top-dogs for at least 75 thousand years of that period. But does not AI and NT mean that the writing is on the wall for us? If by 2050 a desktop computer is more intelligent than all of (presumed unenhanced) humanity (highly probable), of what use will even a living person be?  Accepting your assumptions about a 50 year horizon, a related and relevant question might take the form, "Of what use is an unenhanced cadavar?"  How long do you expect us to remain the dominant life form? If we are not the dominant life-form, how important do you think that a corpse in a dewar will be to our successors?

[Hermit 6] I'd rather see the funds being plowed into corpse preservation being applied to the uploading issue, to comprehension of brain mechanisms and into AI - all of which I see as being much better investments with vastly more chance of providing some measure of extended awareness and capabilities (for our successors if not ourselves) than cryopreservation.



Technical note on formatting. The decimal suffix to a sequence number, e.g. [Hermit 4.1] is inserted purely in order to be able to perform cross-referencing to specific paragraphs, and is not a component of the sequence. Such decimal suffixes should be ordered within the document, irrespective of the speaker allowing easy cross-referencing in the absence of "bookmarks" e.g. Code:
HTML <a name="x">
. Such cross reference suffixes may be inserted at any point and need not be contiguous or linear.
Refer the "FAQ: Hermitish mail mark-up and citation V2.1" for more detail.
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Re:FAQ: Cryonics, medical or embalming technology?
« Reply #16 on: 2002-07-21 01:31:18 »
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[Lucifer 7] You go to great lengths to show that the charge distributions cannot be maintained, but neglect the possibility that long term memory is stored in neural structures.

[Hermit 6] I agree that if there were a possibility of recovering the "self" from a cadavar, that cryonics would offer a better chance than the other options described. I would also say that the possibility is so small to vanishing as to be effectively similar to being able to restore the "self" from an Egyptian mummy.

[Lucifer 7] Ridiculous! That's like saying that recovering a library from frozen (and water damaged) books is effectively similar to restoring the information from the ashes of a burned down library.

[Hermit 6] Humans and their recognizable relatives have been around for somewhere upward of 7.8 million years and top-dogs for at least 75 thousand years of that period. But does not AI and NT mean that the writing is on the wall for us? If by 2050 a desktop computer is more intelligent than all of (presumed unenhanced) humanity (highly probable), of what use will even a living person be?  Accepting your assumptions about a 50 year horizon, a related and relevant question might take the form, "Of what use is an unenhanced cadavar?"  How long do you expect us to remain the dominant life form? If we are not the dominant life-form, how important do you think that a corpse in a dewar will be to our successors?

[Lucifer 7] Now this (finally) is a good argument against cryonics.

[Hermit 6] I'd rather see the funds being plowed into corpse preservation being applied to the uploading issue, to comprehension of brain mechanisms and into AI - all of which I see as being much better investments with vastly more chance of providing some measure of extended awareness and capabilities (for our successors if not ourselves) than cryopreservation.

[Lucifer 7] I agree with this.
« Last Edit: 2002-07-21 03:18:27 by David Lucifer » Report to moderator   Logged
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Re:FAQ: Cryonics, medical or embalming technology?
« Reply #17 on: 2002-07-21 05:31:34 »
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[Lucifer 7] You go to great lengths to show that the charge distributions cannot be maintained, but neglect the possibility that long term memory is stored in neural structures.

[Hermit 8] Err, how would a neural structure be "disrupted, injected, eliminated and modulated by charge injection, potential excitation and magnetic manipulation" if this were the case?

[Hermit 8] Trans-cranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is the most bizarre, unless electrical effects are involved, as, so far as I am aware, the brain contains no magnetic materials.

[Hermit 8] I may be wrong (not impossible), but in the absence of contradictory evidence, I put the probability as being so low as to be discountable. Or why:

[Hermit 6] I agree that if there were a possibility of recovering the "self" from a cadaver, that cryonics would offer a better chance than the other options described. I would also say that the possibility is so small to vanishing as to be effectively similar to being able to restore the "self" from an Egyptian mummy.

[Lucifer 7] Ridiculous! That's like saying that recovering a library from frozen (and water damaged) books is effectively similar to restoring the information from the ashes of a burned down library.

[Hermit 8] Not really. More like saying that after collapsing a house of cards back into a pack and shuffling it, that it does not matter whether the pack is frozen or burnt, the sequence of the cards cannot be restored. Sure freezing doesn't destroy the cards, while burning does. But the above argument is taking into account the objective of the exercise. The claim is not that "less of a cadaver is destroyed by freezing than burning, but that sufficient information about "the self" can be extracted from a cadaver to restore "the self" that once occupied it.
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Re:FAQ: Cryonics, medical or embalming technology?
« Reply #18 on: 2002-07-21 11:24:59 »
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While this discussion has some degree of futility, because speculative arguments cannot be avoided, it is very interesting. Some comments.


Neural structures:
-----------------------
In the articles I have found so far, this term is used with two different meanings. In articles about the brain, neural structures are the neural cells (neurons), dendrites, synapses etc. In some articles about AI, neural structures are meant as abstract network structures. I'll assume that the former is the case here, and that it is implied that the presence or absence of some building blocks in a specific arrangement -- and not the building blocks themselves -- are responsible for the storage of memories.

Long-term memory storage in neural structures would imply lasting physical changes to neural structures of the brain. There are many theories about such mechanisms, but the mechanism which might be convenient for the preservation of memories in the case of damaged neural cells would be "sprouting new synaptic connections", because then there would be a physical network structure representing memories. However, according to this article, this is not the case.


http://www.supermemo.com/english/ol/mem1990.htm
Molecular basis of neuronal plasticity

"Various mechanisms have been proposed to account for the formation of long-term memory. They include increased release of synaptic transmitter, increased number of synaptic receptors, decreased Km of receptors, synthesis of new memory factors either in the presynaptic or postsynaptic element, sprouting of new synaptic connections, increase of the active area in the presynaptic membrane and many others. Let us first consider sprouting, the only one of the mentioned mechanisms that involves changes in the structure of the neuronal circuitry."
<snip>
"This indicates that sprouting is rather specific to young individuals and therefore cannot account for memories"


In other mechanisms of memory storage, where memories would depend on the specifics of particular neurons and synapses, the question of loss of information because of physical damage of the cells still remains. How would nanomachines know what repair work to do to each neuron or synapse? (a thicker membrane here, more receptors there. this neuron should release more transmitter molecules...)


Charge fields:
------------------
A potential requires charges, and charges require carriers. So, the argument about charge dissipation seems to me somehow reversed. The survival of the ability of the neural cells to generate different kinds and amounts of chemical molecules (transmitters) responsible for the electical polarity would seem more relevant.


Uploading:
--------------
I guess cryonics research is mainly funded by the clients, but I wonder whether anyone has thought of selling uploading services today, e.g. some kind of thorough brain scan. It would not seem to be far less hopeful than cryonics.
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Re:FAQ: Cryonics, medical or embalming technology?
« Reply #19 on: 2002-07-21 13:30:05 »
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[Lucifer 7] You go to great lengths to show that the charge distributions cannot be maintained, but neglect the possibility that long term memory is stored in neural structures.

[Hermit 8] Err, how would a neural structure be "disrupted, injected, eliminated and modulated by charge injection, potential excitation and magnetic manipulation" if this were the case?

[Lucifer 9] The neural structure would not, but the memories encoded in the neural structure could be disrupted by external EM influences the same way the operations of a circuit board can be disrupted. The fact that a circuit board requires charge fields to operate does not mean that it is impossible to start it again after being unplugged.

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Relation between brains and minds
« Reply #20 on: 2002-07-21 13:49:17 »
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Rhino, thanks for the link. Very relevant to the current discussions.

Here's a question: What is the relation between brains and minds? I was assuming that the relation was one-to-one, that a given brain could host one possible mind. From Hermit's arguments I can infer that he assumes that a given brain can host more than one possible mind. Would he also say that a given mind could be hosted on more than one possible brain?

Is the relation 1:1, 1:many or many:many?

I left out the other possibility, many:1, because I assume that there are more possible minds than possible brains.  Is that reasonable?
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Re:FAQ: Cryonics, medical or embalming technology?
« Reply #21 on: 2002-07-21 14:19:06 »
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[Lucifer 7] You go to great lengths to show that the charge distributions cannot be maintained, but neglect the possibility that long term memory is stored in neural structures.

[Hermit 8] Err, how would a neural structure be "disrupted, injected, eliminated and modulated by charge injection, potential excitation and magnetic manipulation" if this were the case?

[Lucifer 9] The neural structure would not, but the memories encoded in the neural structure could be disrupted by external EM influences the same way the operations of a circuit board can be disrupted. The fact that a circuit board requires charge fields to operate does not mean that it is impossible to start it again after being unplugged.

[Hermit 10] Supporting your position: "The Brain", Paul Hazel, most recent reference dated 2000

[Hermit 10] I'm not suggesting that there are not structural aspects to memory. I'm suggesting that the state of many classes of neurons are determined by electrical charges and that this is implicated in long term memory by the empirical evidence that we can affect long term brain activity using EMF - and that this is deeply related to the "self" (think e.g. electroconvulsive "therapy"). Thus, no matter what may be recovered from a frozen cadaver, I would argue, as I have here, that the "self" cannot be.

[Hermit 10] Further information supporting (but I agree, not conclusively proving) my position:
"Memories not Lost, Just out of Sync", Dr. John Hart, Jr., 2002-05-08
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Re:FAQ: Cryonics, medical or embalming technology?
« Reply #22 on: 2002-07-21 14:35:00 »
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[Lucifer] Rhino, thanks for the link. Very relevant to the current discussions.

[Hermit] Seconded. Many thanks.

[Lucifer] Here's a question: What is the relation between brains and minds? I was assuming that the relation was one-to-one, that a given brain could host one possible mind. From Hermit's arguments I can infer that he assumes that a given brain can host more than one possible mind. Would he also say that a given mind could be hosted on more than one possible brain?

[Hermit] I would suggest that a single brain could potentially support many different (although necessarily similar - the brain does change depending on experience) minds. It is possible that very similar minds might be able to run on very similar brains. Thinking patterns (the mind) are undoubtedly constrained by the brain (and endocrine system) upon which they run.

[Lucifer] Is the relation 1:1, 1:many or many:many?

[Hermit] While noting that this is speculative I would suggest that 1 brain:many minds is probably more likely than 1 mind:many brains and that 1:1 is improbable as genetically close people with many years of similar experience tend to be very similar (e.g. even my mother cannot discriminate between my father and I except visually - which can result in hilarious telephone conversations).

[Lucifer] I left out the other possibility, many:1, because I assume that there are more possible minds than possible brains.  Is that reasonable?

[Hermit] I think that this would follow naturally from the above.
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Re:FAQ: Cryonics, medical or embalming technology?
« Reply #23 on: 2002-07-21 15:22:43 »
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[Rhinoceros] Charge fields: A potential requires charges, and charges require carriers. So, the argument about charge dissipation seems to me somehow reversed. The survival of the ability of the neural cells to generate different kinds and amounts of chemical molecules (transmitters) responsible for the electical polarity would seem more relevant.

[Hermit] The brain uses ions of light metals as charge carriers, Ca, Na, K and Li (Note that we make far more use of electron depleted carriers (i.e. positive carriers) than negative). Unfortunately, when an ion is left in a conductive solution, it will lose its charge over time (i.e. pick up electrons) unless continuously replenished (which is the task of the cell membranes). This does not happen in a cadaver. Thus the charges are lost and the ions become indistinguishable from the atoms in the surrounding media. There is no way that I can think of to determine how to restore the potential once it has been lost. If this is, even in part, how long term memory works, and for the empirical reasons previously expounded, I think that it is, then the self will indeed be permanently lost shortly after cellular death, no matter how the corpse is stored.

[Rhinoceros] Uploading: I guess cryonics research is mainly funded by the clients, but I wonder whether anyone has thought of selling uploading services today, e.g. some kind of thorough brain scan. It would not seem to be far less hopeful than cryonics.

[Hermit] Unfortunately, current scanning technology does not offer sufficiently detailed resolution to make this effort particularly hopeful. My estimation is that this will probably be possible using non-invasive scanning technology within 20 years and possibly within the next 10 years. One route I consider more hopeful than others in the near term is the potential infection of an “uploader” with a neuro specific virus or prion modified to carry conductive marker material allowing easier establishment of individual neural potentials.

[Hermit] If we achieve the benefits speculated for nanotechnology, then an alternative in the same time frames might be invasive nanotechnology, which measures potentials and reports them.

[Hermit] As a side note, my reasoning on the timeframe is driven as much by storage technology as by sensor accuracy improvements or projected nanotechnology timelines. Even the stupid do have rather a lot of connections in their brains...
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Re:FAQ: Cryonics, medical or embalming technology?
« Reply #24 on: 2002-07-27 16:18:37 »
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I confess to playing devil's advocate in the cryonics debate, the pro-side here and the con-side at bjklein.com. The silence to my last question has been deafening.
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Re:FAQ: Cryonics, medical or embalming technology?
« Reply #25 on: 2002-07-27 18:41:11 »
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A brilliant strategy had they been able to assist. Unfortunately, it appears that between Rhino, you and me, there is at least as much, if not more, comprehension about the mechanisms involved here, as there.

The conclusion that my initial skepticism was justified, appears inescapable. A worthwhile exercise altogether.

Thanks and Regards

Hermit
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Re:FAQ: Cryonics, medical or embalming technology?
« Reply #26 on: 2002-07-29 14:59:18 »
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More on charge dependency
Model for a robust neural integrator

Source: Nature Neuroscience
Authors: Alexei A. Koulakov1, 2, Sridhar Raghavachari3, Adam Kepecs3 & John E. Lisman3
Dated: 2002-07-22 doi:10.1038/nn893 August 2002 Volume 5 Number 8 pp 775 - 782

1. Salk Institute for Biological Studies, 10010 North Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla, California 92037, USA
2. Department of Physics, University of Utah, 115 South 1400 East, Salt Lake City, Utah 84112, USA
3. Volen Center for Complex Systems, Mailstop 013, Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts 02454, USA
Correspondence should be addressed to A A Koulakov. e-mail: akula@physics.utah.edu

Abstract

Integrator circuits in the brain show persistent firing that reflects the sum of previous excitatory and inhibitory inputs from external sources. Integrator circuits have been implicated in parametric working memory, decision making and motor control. Previous work has shown that stable integrator function can be achieved by an excitatory recurrent neural circuit, provided synaptic strengths are tuned with extreme precision (better than 1% accuracy). Here we show that integrator circuits can function without fine tuning if the neuronal units have bistable properties. Two specific mechanisms of bistability are analyzed, one based on local recurrent excitation, and the other on the voltage-dependence of the NMDA (N-methyl-D-aspartate) channel. Neither circuit requires fine tuning to perform robust integration, and the latter actually exploits the variability of neuronal conductances.
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Re:FAQ: Cryonics, medical or embalming technology?
« Reply #27 on: 2002-08-07 07:35:46 »
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Who buys cryonic treatment? "Who's to say future generations will want to bring a bunch of geeks on ice back to life?" I just found this article dealing with some interesting issues besides the technical ones.


http://www.siliconvalley.com/mld/siliconvalley/3803782.htm

Posted on Sun, Aug. 04, 2002
Techies go for ice-cold afterlife

Technology workers dominate those drawn to cryonics, believing science will advance enough to bring them back from the dead
By Jessica Guynn and Ellen Lee

<snip>

"No one can say whether it will work or not," Hogg said. "It's an unknown."

It's just that unknown, that otherworldly possibility of life after death, that tantalize techies of all stripes -- mathematicians, physicists, software developers, computer programmers -- who make up a vast majority of those who have signed up for cryonics suspension. The family feud over deep-freezing baseball slugger Ted Williams has only intensified interest in cryonics in Silicon Valley and in the greater Bay Area, already a hotbed for the experimental and controversial process.

Canadian author Heather Pringle first noted that cryonics "captivates the hearts and minds of many in Silicon Valley" while researching modern mummification for her book, "The Mummy Congress: Science, Obsession and the Everlasting Dead" (Theia/Hyperion), which explores the age-old human obsession with cheating death.

"I wondered why on Earth would software people, bit heads and hardware people be so interested in this?" said Pringle, who estimated in 1998 that more than 25 percent of the more than 400 people then signed up with Alcor toiled in either the computer or engineering industries. "It's really because of their faith in technology. They are very future-oriented. They are constantly looking ahead in their own minds to the future."

<snip>

Once frozen, anything could happen. Despite its many assurances and provisions to fund its operations for decades to come, the cryonics organization could run out of money and shut down, the corpses thawed and buried. It has happened before. And should technology deliver the power to grant eternal life a la the Vampire Lestat, who's to say future generations will want to bring a bunch of geeks on ice back to life?

Pringle points out a lot can go wrong "when the dead are unable to lift a finger to defend themselves." Even the most dedicated mummifiers, the Egyptians, were prone to mistakes: they took out the wrong organs, used too much boiling resin, let limbs rot and then tied them together with the Egyptian equivalent of duct tape, then plundered those they had embalmed.

"Who knows what (future generations) will make of all these 21st century mummies?" Pringle wrote in "The Mummy Congress." "Will they size up this trove of ancient human flesh for its commercial potential and auction off its primeval DNA and untainted blood cells on some future version of eBay?"
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Re:FAQ: Cryonics, medical or embalming technology?
« Reply #28 on: 2002-09-20 10:08:24 »
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Well that's a very interesting discussion, but I won't pretend to have understood it all (or even read 10% of it) and it not's not really the viability of cryonics I want to address but the actual terms of the prize offered by New Scientist. I understand Hermits scepticism ( and share it to a certain extent ) but even he has to accept that all the problems that make cryonics an utter waste of money at present are being worked on in labs all over the world as we talk, so to never say never, as in so many things would be foolish in the extreme.

I'm only a badly paid worker bee myself, so to put money aside for cryonic insurance in the current climate would be slightly ridiculous. If techniques are perfected nearer the end of my life (which I hope is a long way away yet) it is unlikely that I will at that point have the cash to invest in potential resurrection, having pretty much followed Thorsten Veblens life cycle model. If between now and then I somehow manage to obtain a large amount of money it will be spent on a holiday to Hawaii, so the only way I could possibly get a chance at being successfully frozen and defrosted is to win it in a competition. If anybody gets reanimated it will be the winner of the New Scientist prize. If Hermits not entering that gives me an even better chance of winning!
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Re:FAQ: Cryonics, medical or embalming technology?
« Reply #29 on: 2003-08-17 00:42:56 »
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[Hermit] It seems that the modern mummification process, the crypreservation of cadavars is not going to be as successful as the time-tested Egyptian system, certainly some are saying that the system is not all it is cracked up to be. Argument may be made that Nearly Headless Ted's head was cracked before Alcor got hold of it.

Refer: [ Hermit, "Nearly Headless Ted", 2003-08-14 ]
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