This popular press article takes a look at the Russian cryonics provider KrioRus and the long-standing US provider Alcor. As for many such articles it is perhaps too ready to selectively quote skeptical scientists while ignoring the vocal support of many other scientists. The small cryonics industry provides low-temperature storage of the body and brain on death, using vitrification for avoidance of ice formation and the best possible preservation of fine structure that stores the data of the mind. This is the only possibility at a longer life in the future for those who will age to death prior to the advent of rejuvenation biotechnology, and it is a tragedy that so few people are interested in cryopreservation as an alternative to oblivion and the grave. In a better world, near everyone would be preserved for a future of medical molecular nanotechnology capable of restoring vitrified tissue and regenerative medicine capable of rebuilding a body, and no-one would think it normal to embrace self-destruction rather than hope at the end of life.
In both countries, the cryopreservation process is largely the same. Once a patient is pronounced legally dead, the body must be cooled within the next few hours to start bringing down the body temperature. Most cryonics companies work with standby services whose main purpose is to get the body out of the hospital or morgue as soon as possible to begin the process. Over several hours, the patient's blood is replaced with a cryoprotectant, essentially a chemical anti-freeze that shields tissue from freezing damage. Then the patient is cooled to -196C over the course of several days using nitrogen gas.
Those who elect to sign up seem to fall into two categories. The first consists of people who consider themselves pioneers and would be quite content to come back in the future, knowing no one and nothing of the current culture. The second is of people scared both by the prospect of death and by the finality that comes with saying goodbye to a loved one for ever, a feeling most sceptics would find hard not to empathise with.
Of those two categories, Gary Abramson and Maria Entraigues-Abramson probably fall into the former. A photogenic couple who live in Los Angeles, the two met at a conference devoted to life extension and married not long after. "I had this curiosity since I was a little girl about ageing. I always felt it was something that was not right," Entraigues-Abramson told me. "If you're frozen, you're locked in time," Abramson chimed in. "If you wait 100 years or 1,000 years or however much time it takes for the technology to develop, it doesn't matter. I'm sure it's a split second for your experience. It may be a one in one thousand chance. But the alternative is a 100 per cent guarantee annihilation of your existence." "And if you don't like it in the future, you can always die again if you want to," Entraigues-Abramson said. "You can take a peek and say, 'I like it' or 'I don't. I'd rather be dead. People think cryonics is freaky but lying in the ground and decomposing isn't? What's the difference?"