Science Imitates Science Fiction

Cryopreservation in fiction and Nature.

Image by library_mistress via Flickr

If you’ve read science fiction novels you have probably run across cryopreservation—preserving a living organism from decay by subjecting it to extreme temperatures, either drying or freezing.  (In novels, people who travel in space tend to prefer preservation by freezing rather than drying.)  Nature, however does it both ways.  The extremely dry climate of Masada, for example, preserved the seeds of (apparently all but) extinct Judean Date.  Once archaeologists discovered and “resurrected” the seeds, one of them grew into a viable plant (aptly named Methuselah) which is now growing in a park.  In 1995, scientists discovered a bacterium that managed to survive for 25 to 40 million years by going into hibernation while the Earth went into an ice age.

Some cells, it seems, have the natural ability to transform themselves into solids under the right temperatures.  (Cells that are solids—that is have gotten rid of their water either by drying or freezing—don’t move around, don’t do their work and thus don’t get worn down.  In short, they don’t degrade.)  Today, scientists are trying to harness this natural ability for various purposes.  Cryobiologist Amir Arav is working with the US army to figure out a way to freeze-dry soldiers’ blood so they can carry pellets of it around with them.  If he is successful (and he says it’s only a matter of time, though he won’t say how much time) this procedure will save lives.  Dorbian biologist Patricia Berjak meanwhile is trying to use cryobiology to preserve seeds in such a way that they are not destroyed by fungi—food preservation is in Africa too often a question of life or death.  Scientists at Monash University are experimenting with cryogenics to preserve the snow leopards.  I could go on.

But what’s fascinating to me about all this is how not just that scientists are trying to emulate nature (that after all is not really new) but that science fiction writers seemed to have given them the idea.

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18 Responses to “Science Imitates Science Fiction”
  1. lyan08 Says...

    On January 31, 2012 at 10:29 pm

    nice share..

  2. girishpuri Says...

    On January 31, 2012 at 11:12 pm

    very nice

  3. Safa Says...

    On February 1, 2012 at 12:06 am


  4. girishpuri Says...

    On February 1, 2012 at 1:13 am

    nice share

  5. la Femme Says...

    On February 2, 2012 at 11:15 pm

    Thnks to share

  6. Thell Stars Says...

    On February 4, 2012 at 1:15 pm

    nice share

  7. Karen Gross Says...

    On February 4, 2012 at 3:56 pm

    I find it fascinating how art imitated life, and then life imitates art. It isn’t always a good thing, but it can be. For example – in the 60’s, people scoffed at the tiny wireless flip open communication devices on Star Trek – and now 50 years later almost everyone has one.

    Cryogenics is a fascinating technology, Like you mentioned, we can use it for preserving food, blood, and also human sperm and eggs. Perhaps donor organs could be preserved this way, and someday maybe even humans. The problem that remains in the ‘fiction’ part of science fiction is how to reanimate living tissue, or living creatures.

    Do you think that if the technology existed, that you would want to be frozen and brought back when a cure for your disease is found? I don’t think I would. You would miss out on whatever time you have left with your family, and you might wake up in a time that is worse than today, and you could be all alone if your family and friends have all died.

  8. Inna Tysoe Says...

    On February 4, 2012 at 8:25 pm

    @Karen: I guess what bugs me most about the situation you are describing (and btw, people are already doing this) is that this option seems to be reserved for people with means….

  9. saritajain86 Says...

    On February 5, 2012 at 1:11 pm

    Good job…

  10. Ruby Hawk Says...

    On February 6, 2012 at 5:06 pm

    Fascinating stuff, Fantasy writers often gives science a push in the right direction.

  11. Tulan Says...

    On February 6, 2012 at 8:01 pm

    true, look back over science fiction written over the last hundred years and see what they wrote about.

  12. Hotnews Says...

    On March 8, 2012 at 2:44 pm

    Nice Articles..

  13. magediory Says...

    On March 15, 2012 at 9:19 pm

    Look great,,,,!

  14. h4mz4h Says...

    On April 7, 2012 at 3:57 am

    i like it

  15. meandu Says...

    On August 28, 2012 at 4:18 pm

    Intriguing article. I don’t believe I would like to have either of these done to me however.

  16. Trey Allen Says...

    On October 1, 2012 at 7:48 am

    Nice article and thanks for share

  17. elee Says...

    On November 4, 2012 at 1:02 am

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  18. afaceristonline Says...

    On December 28, 2012 at 11:10 am

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