A prize worth $28,000 (£18,000), is part of a competition being run in the September 2002 edition of New Scientist magazine . The prize is being offered in conjunction with the Cryonics Institute of Michigan, a U.S. facility that stores the remains of more than 40 people.
To enter, readers are asked to explain in 50 words or less which prize they would prefer: a chance to be frozen and live again later, or a view of the universe as it is today. When the winner is pronounced legally dead, he or she will be prepared and cooled to a temperature of -196 °C, where physical decay of the body stops. The person will then be suspended in liquid nitrogen, in a state known as cryonic preservation. When and if medical technology allows, he or she will then be healed and revived and awoken to extended life in youthful good health. At least that is the plan.
For the winner who does not fancy the idea of been frozen, an alternative prize of a week in Hawaii and the chance to view the stars through the world's highest telescope at Mauna Kea is available. The magazine said: "It is the first time that any form of media, anywhere in the world, has attempted a circulation-boosting promotion of this nature - in essence, providing for a second chance of life rather than the inevitability of death.
Jeremy Webb, editor of New Scientist, said: "The whole emphasis of cryonics is that you put yourself into deep freeze until technology has gained the expertise to bring you back. There is a polarisation of views on this. There are people who think it is complete and utter rubbish, and there are people who can't wait to sign up. It depends what you want to do. There is a certain fascination about waking up hundreds of years from now. That really fires some people up. For those who think it's complete bunkum, they can go to Hawaii and look back millions of years by looking at the stars instead."
Colin Blakemore, Waynflete Professor of Physiology at Oxford University, told The Times newspaper: "It's a bit of a dud prize. The alternative is enormously more attractive. There is certainly at present no technology that's capable of reviving a dead body in this way, and it's highly questionable whether there ever will be. The consequences of death begin to ramify through the body extremely quickly, especially in the brain where you get neuronal death within minutes of death. I'm not sure quite what they hope to freeze. It certainly wouldn't appeal to me."
After this story was well-publicized [1-4], CNN then ran a QuickVote online poll, producing the following results :
Created: Thu Sep 19 07:58:15 EDT 2002
If you won the competition, which prize would you prefer?
To be cryogenically frozen
A week in Hawaii
Total: 6155 votes
This QuickVote is not scientific and reflects the opinions of only those Internet users who have chosen to participate. The results cannot be assumed to represent the opinions of Internet users in general, nor the public as a whole. The QuickVote sponsor is not responsible for content, functionality or the opinions expressed therein.
Interestingly, more than one-third of respondents to this poll evidently already believe that future nanomedicine will work in the cryonics application.