Weird Biology of Viruses / Cryonics & Immortality

Hosted byGeorge Noory

Weird Biology of Viruses / Cryonics & Immortality

About the show

James Rollins is a bestselling author of international thrillers - known for unveiling unseen worlds, scientific breakthroughs, and historical secrets. In the first half, he talked about his latest novel, The Kingdom of Bones, which delves into the weird biology of viruses, 'Disease X,' and virus hunters. He was about two-thirds finished with his book when the pandemic arrived in 2020, and he subsequently revised the work to include mentions of COVID-19. As research for his book, he spoke with various virologists and uncovered some fascinating facts. For instance, viruses are a million-fold more plentiful than all the stars in the universe; they mutate a million times faster than humans do; and "33 million viruses rain down onto every square meter of the planet every day."

He also learned about what are known as "giant viruses" that are many times larger than the more commonplace viruses, which have just a handful of genes. These large organisms have some 2,000 – 3,000 genes and were first thought to be bacterium. The Yaravirus, he noted, has some 2,800 genes, "but every gene in that organism is alien," and they don't know what they do. Viruses may be the least understood form of life (scientists have debated whether they even are alive). Rollins also shared the fascinating idea that viruses could be a source of human consciousness, and may play a significant role in our embryonic development. The Virus World Theory takes this notion further and proposes that viruses are the source of life itself.

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In the latter half, British business and technology reporter Peter Ward discussed the people and technologies currently attempting to make humans immortal, focusing on the field of cryonics. Cryonics is based on the theory that if you can freeze someone not long after they've died, in the future, the person could be re-animated when a cure is found for whatever disease or illness led to their death. Alcor was the first company to develop the technology, but now there are a number of other businesses around the world that offer the service (though few clients have pursued it). Rather than full-body freezing, some have opted to have just their head frozen (like baseball great Ted Williams). Called the "Neuropreservation" option, the idea behind this is that when you're revived, you could have your head placed on a new or robot body.

In terms of how to pay for long-term cryonic suspension, some people set up a life insurance policy to cover the ongoing costs, Ward explained. In a controversial case, Alcor was accused of murder when a patient had her head removed and frozen. Alcor hid the head because there would be no chance to revive it if it was subjected to unthawing in a post-mortem investigation, he recounted. In terms of clients being revived many years down the road, the world may be so changed that it could be a highly disorienting experience, he pointed out. Ward also talked about the Church of Perpetual Life in South Florida, a religion based on the idea that through technology, the congregants will be able to live forever or radically expand their lifespans.

News segment guests: Lauren Weinstein, Steve Kates

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