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Immortality:: How Science Is Extending Your Life Span--and Changing The World Hardcover – September 1, 1998
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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.
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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.
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.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to know about the state of modern medicine in exploring pathways for achieving greatly extended lifespans. A glimpse at what's coming down the pike that might ENORMOUSLY impact society.