Posts Tagged ‘immortality’

Archaeologists in central China’s Henan Province said Friday that the liquid found in a bronze pot unearthed from a Western Han Dynasty (202 BC-8 AD) tomb is an “elixir of life” recorded in ancient Taoist literature.

About 3.5 liters of the liquid was excavated from the tomb of a noble family in the city of Luoyang last October. It was initially judged by archaeologists to be liquor as it gave off an alcohol aroma.

However, further lab research found that the liquid is mainly made up of potassium nitrate and alunite, the main ingredients of an immortality medicine mentioned in an ancient Taoist text, according to Pan Fusheng, leading archaeologist of the excavation project.

“It is the first time that mythical ‘immortality medicines’ have been found in China,” said Shi Jiazhen, head of the Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology in Luoyang.

“The liquid is of significant value for the study of ancient Chinese thoughts on achieving immortality and the evolution of Chinese civilization,” Shi added.

A large number of color-painted clay pots, jadeware and bronze artifacts were also unearthed from the tomb, which covers 210 square meters. The remains of the tomb occupant have also been preserved.

“The tomb provides valuable material for study of the life of Western Han nobles as well as the funeral rituals and customs of the period,” Pan said.

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Human cortical neurons in the brain. (David Scharf/Corbis)

By Jerry Adler
Smithsonian Magazine

Ken Hayworth, a neuroscientist, wants to be around in 100 years but recognizes that, at 43, he’s not likely to make it on his own. Nor does he expect to get there preserved in alcohol or a freezer; despite the claims made by advocates of cryonics, he says, the ability to revivify a frozen body “isn’t really on the horizon.” So Hayworth is hoping for what he considers the next best thing. He wishes to upload his mind—his memories, skills and personality—to a computer that can be programmed to emulate the processes of his brain, making him, or a simulacrum, effectively immortal (as long as someone keeps the power on).

Hayworth’s dream, which he is pursuing as president of the Brain Preservation Foundation, is one version of the “technological singularity.” It envisions a future of “substrate-independent minds,” in which human and machine consciousness will merge, transcending biological limits of time, space and memory. “This new substrate won’t be dependent on an oxygen atmosphere,” says Randal Koene, who works on the same problem at his organization, Carboncopies.org. “It can go on a journey of 1,000 years, it can process more information at a higher speed, it can see in the X-ray spectrum if we build it that way.” Whether Hayworth or Koene will live to see this is an open question. Their most optimistic scenarios call for at least 50 years, and uncounted billions of dollars, to implement their goal. Meanwhile, Hayworth hopes to achieve the ability to preserve an entire human brain at death—through chemicals, cryonics or both—to keep the structure intact with enough detail that it can, at some future time, be scanned into a database and emulated on a computer.

That approach presumes, of course, that all of the subtleties of a human mind and memory are contained in its anatomical structure—conventional wisdom among neuroscientists, but it’s still a hypothesis. There are electrochemical processes at work. Are they captured by a static map of cells and synapses? We won’t know, advocates argue, until we try to do it.

The initiatives require a big bet on the future of technology. A 3-D map of all the cells and synapses in a nervous system is called a “connectome,” and so far researchers have produced exactly one, for a roundworm called Caenorhabditis elegans, with 302 neurons and about 7,000 connections among them. A human brain, according to one reasonable estimate, has about 86 billion neurons and 100 trillion synapses. And then there’s the electrochemical activity on top of that. In 2013, announcing a federal initiative to produce a complete model of the human brain, Francis Collins, head of the National Institutes of Health, said it could generate “yottabytes” of data—a million million million megabytes. To scan an entire human brain at the scale Hayworth thinks is necessary—effectively slicing it into virtual cubes ten nanometers on a side—would require, with today’s technology, “a million electron microscopes running in parallel for ten years.” Mainstream researchers are divided between those who regard Hayworth’s quest as impossible in practice, and those, like Miguel Nicolelis of Duke University, who consider it impossible in theory. “The brain,” he says, “is not computable.”

And what does it mean for a mind to exist outside a brain? One immediately thinks of the disembodied HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey. But Koene sees no reason that, if computers continue to grow smaller and more powerful, an uploaded mind couldn’t have a body—a virtual one, or a robotic one. Will it sleep? Experience hunger, pain, desire? In the absence of hormones and chemical neurotransmitters, will it feel emotion? It will be you, in a sense, but will you be it?

These questions don’t trouble Hayworth. To him, the brain is the most sophisticated computer on earth, but only that, and he figures his mind could also live in one made of transistors instead. He hopes to become the first human being to live entirely in cyberspace, to send his virtual self into the far future.

Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/quest-upload-mind-into-digital-space-180954946/#OBRGToqVzeqftrBt.99

The likely date and location for the first-ever human head transplant have been set, after the controversial Italian doctor that will lead the surgery said that he has selected his team of surgeons.

Radical Italian surgeon Sergio Canavero has drawn fascination and criticism after he announced plans to cut off a man’s head and put it onto another body. Many had expected that the planned operation would probably never happen – but a team has now been appointed to lead the operation.

Canavero is hoping to complete the procedure – which will take 36-hours, and cost $11 million – by December 2017, according to Russia Today.

The transplant is likely to happen in China, with a team made up largely of doctors from the country, according to AFP. That is likely to raise worries about the already highly-controversial operation, since China has been criticised for using the organs of executed prisoners without their consent.

The procedure has already drawn widespread condemnation, from doctors who say that it is likely to kill the person undergoing it, and that if he does survive he will undergo something a “lot worse than death”.

Russian Valery Spiridonov has already been selected as the recipient of the new body. He suffers from the rare, genetic Werdnig-Hoffmann disease, which gradually wastes away his muscles.

During the procedure, the donor and patient will each have their head sliced off their body in a super-fast procedure. The transplanted parts will then be stuck together with glue and stitches.

Spiridinov will then be placed in a month-long coma and injected with drugs intended to stop the body and head from rejecting each other.

Since the procedure is unprecedented, apart from mixed results in dogs and monkeys, doctors are not sure what could happen during the surgery – or how Spiridinov is likely to be if and when he wakes up.

Ren Xiaoping, who will work with Canavero to try and attempt the procedure in the next two years, said that the team will only attempt it if research and tests show that it is likely to be successful.

The operation will probably happen in China, at the Harbin Medical University, according to reports.

Since Ren refused to say where the donated body might be found, some have worried that the donated body might be taken from an executed prisoner.

In China – where the huge population and a low number of donations have led to a high demand for organs – an industry of forced donations and a black market for the sale of organs have flourished.

Canavero has said that China is keen to be involved in the procedure as a way of demonstrating its keenness for scientific research to the world, likening the race to complete the transplant to the space race. The Italian doctor has recognised that he could go to jail for performing the procedure in an unfriendly country and said that he has “been studying Chinese for a few years”.

The doctor has said that the procedure is just a first step towards his ultimate aim of immortality.

http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/head-transplant-team-selected-for-controversial-operation-that-will-go-ahead-in-2017-10498627.html

Thanks to Kebmodee for bringing this to the It’s Interesting community.