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Immortality:: How Science Is Extending Your Life Span--and Changing The World Hardcover – September 1, 1998

4.1 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Do you want to live to be 200? How about 500? Maybe forever? Ben Bova, famed science fiction author and futurist, predicts that within the lifetimes of many people alive in 1998, molecular biology and genetics will reveal the secrets of cellular immortality, freeing people of the "threescore years and ten" most of us are allotted. Further, Bova asserts in Immortality, we will be living those long lives in healthy, youngish bodies, subject only to death by accident. To back up this claim, Bova offers a nice, clear overview of how genetics has come to the brink of science fiction, made accessible to readers unfamiliar with the terminology through the use of explanatory sidebars and basic definitions. If you find yourself doubting this prediction, two things might make you reassess your opinion: (1) Ben Bova was right when he foretold the advent of the Internet, solar-powered satellites, electronic books, and many other wonders of the 20th century, and (2) in an extraordinary 50-year time line, he shows how fast and furious technological developments have come--including things that would have been deemed impossible mere months before they happened. After showing how science is laying the groundwork for achieving incredible human longevity, Immortality examines the ways society, government, the environment, and personal responsibility might change in the face of it. No pessimist or technophobe, Bova assures us that immortal people will (by necessity) become more farsighted and thoughtful about their lives and the lives of others. The search for earthly immortality has occupied humans throughout history ... how long do you want to live? --Therese Littleton

From Publishers Weekly

The quest for human immortality is ongoing in science labs around the world, and the possibility is now closer to science fact than fiction, claims Bova, who as a veteran and prolific author of science books (Space Travel, etc.) and SF (Moonwar, etc.) might know. Bova admits that few scientists would agree with that claim but that scientists "are usually not the best predictors of their own futures." Again Bova lives up to his reputation of writing straightforward, understandable prose to explain recent scientific advances. We are entering the fourth era of medicine, he observes, one in which science is working on solving the riddle of aging. He leads readers through a tautological compendium of the mechanics of cellular life and death. Why do certain bacteria and cancer cells apparently live forever, when those trillions that make up the human body are subject to senescence and death? Is aging caused by entropy, the genetic damage that accumulates daily until our genes are unable to repair themselves? Or is it a by-product of the progressive shortening of the telomeres that cap each chromosome? Bova subscribes to the telomeric explanation, believing that the issue may be resolved by selectively injecting telomerase analogs into certain types of cells to prohibit them from aging. Over the decades, many of Bova's scientific predictions have come true: the space race of the 1960s, solar-powered satellites, virtual reality, the discovery of water ice on the moon and even electronic book publishing. The promise of immortality based on scientific advancement is his most ambitious prophecy and, judging from the passion he bestows on it in this routine book about an outlandish subject, his most ardent hope.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow; 1 edition (September 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0380975181
  • ISBN-13: 978-0380975181
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.8 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,490,704 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Dr. Ben Bova did a marvelous job writing this book, in an entertaining & logical manner, he explains that not only the how and details of this inevitable event of human existence, he also, explains to the reader the opposition such discoveries will run into, truly fascinating, and for those of you who still find it hard to believe after you have read it (which you won't, but if you do), check out the following company: GERON!--they are gonna be the Microsoft of Human Genetic enhancing drugs........"May you live in interesting times"--Chinese proverb--that is an understatement...............
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Format: Paperback
How long would you like to live? 80 years? 100 years? 200 years? How about forever? You know, you just might.
Ben Bova has succeeded in gathering the most recent developments in medical science and technology together with the most credible extrapolations of current trends to write a terrific and much-needed book. He has studied the many diverse and often arcane fields of scientific investigation and somehow created a highly readable yet convincing depiction of where life extension research may lead us. He makes acceptable what used to seem unbelievable.
Immortality is not a long book and does not come across as scholarly or academic. It is clearly intended for the popular reader. And yet, I believe it is one of the most important and valuable books to be written within the last 20 years. If it is widely read and discussed, it will go a long way toward persuading the public that they'd better pay attention and begin preparing for the amazing ways in which our world is about to change.
NOTE: Ben Bova is not a medical doctor, but rather a Ph.D. of the liberal arts. The use of "Dr." before his name was probably his publisher's idea, intended to give the author more legitimacy on this topic. I find it disingenuous and needless. Ben Bova is a successful, respected writer of speculative fiction, and is probably as well qualified to write this book as any medical doctor.
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Format: Hardcover
This book offers a simple discussion for some of the causes of aging and the medical treatments which may be used to intervene in them. Bova does a very good job looking at how society will have to deal with the trends in medicine.
If you are do not have a science background, Part I (Chapters 1-15): "The Scientific Evidence" provides a good background for the biology & medicine. If you have a good background in these areas, you may want to skip to Part II: (Chapters 16-21) "The Impact of Immortality", which is much more interesting.
My background includes microbiology, biochemistry, several years of research into the causes of aging and 2 years as the president of Aeiveos Sciences Group where we studied the molecular biology of aging. I found misinterpretations or errors every few pages in the biology discussions. This is probably more the fault of the publisher who should have had the book reviewed by an expert in the field before publication. The treatment of nanotechnology (Chapter 15) is very simplistic.
Forthcoming books such as Nanomedicine by Robert Freitas will be much better in discussing the nuts & bolts of how you solve the problems of aging. Books such as Caleb Finch's "Longevity, Senescense and the Genome" and Steve Austad's "Why We Age" provide a much better background on the biology of aging.
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Format: Paperback
It seems to me a great accomplishment that Ben Bova can maintain his conversational style while educating the public and provoking serious contemplation. Reading this book took me only 2 evenings, and it felt like having the author in my living room. I'm not a scientist. I didn't even know there was a difference between life expectancy and life span. Life expectancy has increased because of the percentage of children who now survive to adulthood thanks to medical advances. The human life span referred to in the Bible as threescore and ten (and sometimes fourscore) has really never changed. Until now, or almost now. We are on the brink of understanding cellular processes that cause what we know as "aging" to occur. The author explains in very clear terms the present theories of aging and the research efforts now underway. He also delves into all the moral quandaries involved...this was the area that prompted me to read the book. I wanted to know more about embryonic stem cell research and cloning, and why pursuing these technologies is or is not justified. I am Catholic! The author tries to be civil about religious viewpoints, but can barely manage. His viewpoints are always 100% secular and ammoral. Nevertheless, he presents the arguments of all, and makes his case is a logical manner. I do recommend this book for the nonscientist who wants to explore these issues and pick up a good deal of knowledge about how the research is being done.
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Format: Hardcover
Ben Bova's latest work deals with the progress of science as it seeks to decipher the codes that bind all living organisms. The work details, in an extremely readable fashion, how scientists are making progress in molecular biology and how that progress will open the mysteries of life's very machineries. Dr Bova starts with the beginnings of medicine and reveals scientific progress as a fascinating journey of exploration and endless discovery, complete with blind alleys and false starts. He shows how scientists are "pushing the envelope" of research into extending active human life for centuries; and someday, millennia. He also points out the fact that these same scientists may not be entirely aware of the ultimate outcome of their work, or its implications. Dr Bova devotes part of his book to the meaning of long life, or virtual immortality, to the American and global societies. He addresses the concerns and objections to this progress, on several fronts; the sociological and the religious, for example. He demonstrates how Humanity has balked at such changes as the medical research will bring, and how Humanity is ill-equiped to deal with the potentials involved here. Like any talented professor, he offers no pat solutions, but gives the students the tools with which to reason. Most striking about the book, "Immortality", is the time frames discussed. Bova speaks of great progress made in perhaps less than a decade. He suspects that within fifty years science will have learned how to stop, and perhaps reverse, the process we call age. His opening words set the stage for all that will follow. "The first immortals are already living among us. You may be one of them". The insights are, for lack of a better word, ...timeless.
Alan McBride Science Reporter Florida's Radio Network
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