Celebrities want to live in the future, rich people with untreatable conditions want the potential to find a cure. What are we talking about? Cryogenics. Or is it cryonics? The two are not the same but one term has taken precedence over the other.
In a nutshell, if you want to be frozen until they find a cure for cancer, that’s cryonics. If you want to study how it works, that’s cryogenics.
What is cryonics?
Cryonics is “the belief that a person’s body or body parts can be frozen at death, stored in a cryogenic vessel, and later brought back to life.” In the context of the celebrity wanting a longer life, this is what they believe. There was a long-standing rumour that Walt Disney was cryonically frozen to prevent him dying but that was widely refuted that.
What is cryogenics?
Cryogenics is the “study of the production and behaviour of materials at very low temperatures”. To make things more complicated, there’s also cryopreservation, a process where biological matter are preserved by cooling to very low temperatures using liquid nitrogen. It’s not reversible in humans but cryonicists hope medical advances will revive cryopreserved people in the future.
There’s a lot more to low-temperature preservation. Here are some other cryo- definitions.
- Cryobiology – The branch of biology involving the study of the effects of low temperatures on organisms (most often for the purpose of achieving cryopreservation).
- Cryosurgery – The branch of surgery applying cryogenic temperatures to destroy malignant tissue, e.g. cancer cells.
- Cryoelectronics – The study of electronic phenomena at cryogenic temperatures. Examples include superconductivity and variable-range hopping.
- Cryotronics – The practical application of cryoelectronics.
But when did the term become cryogenics in popular culture? It’s not really known when the distinction was lost outside of science. To make matters worse, cryonics is also an application of cryogenics but they are fundamentally different.
So, to summarise: cryonics is the freezing part. Cryogenics is the study of the freezing part. If you want to know more, check out the reading list below.
- Cryonics UK – The non-profit organisation providing assistance wanting for their body to be cryopreserved upon “death”
- Inside the weird world of cryonics (via FT)
- The future of death: cryonics and the telos of liberal individualism [PDF]
- Scientific justification of cryonics practice
- The prospect of immortality, a book on cryogenics from 1965
- Extreme life extension: Investing in cryonics for the long, long term