September 20, 2015

The controversial science behind "immortality"

In the SXSW accepted film "The Immortalists" two eccentric scientists struggle to create eternal youth in a world they call “blind to the tragedy of old age.” As they battle their own aging and suffer the loss of loved ones, their scientific quest ultimately becomes personal.

I am hoping that the documentary focuses on more than just telomerase and instead takes a look at a more complete picture such as described by the SENS (Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence) approach cause otherwise I am afraid it will prove to be a quite dumbed down and simplistic vision.

By the looks of it The Immortalists should provide a balanced view as the cast is about evenly divided between those who think that fighting aging is a good idea and those who say it isn't feasible or that we shouldn't bother.

Those last few shots of de Grey and his missus... It's always refreshing to see someone own what lesser beings might wrongly choose to hide in shame. Good stuff! :) It's obvious that this documentary will try to infuse the rather depressing topic of death with a dose of lighthearted humor.

Aubrey de Grey is probably one of the most famous biogerontologists alive and has been trying to get the fight against aging on the agenda for a long time. Before he co-founded SENS he was one of the main drivers behind the creation of the Methuselah foundation, named after both the biblical figure who supposedly ;) lived to be 969 years and the very real 4845 year-old Great Basin bristlecone pine which is still alive and kicking today somewhere in the White Mountains regio of eastern California. He was the main instigator behind the Mprize (Methuselah Mouse Prize) which has awarded various teams for achieving preset life extension and rejuvenation milestones in mice. Check out this TED talk from 7 years ago if you want a small primer on his work.

Alternatively you can check out this hour long lecture for a more detailed look at why he thinks that SENS will help us conquer aging - Aubrey de Grey, "Ending Aging" | Talks at Google

If you really want to start digging into the science behind aging you might want to take a look at the SENS foundation's site and their archive of lectures. The SENS conferences regularly attract huge names who run some of the biggest labs in the world. For example, last year's keynote, SENS6, was opened by George Church and SENS5 was opened by Caleb Finch. -

And finally, if you are looking for a spicy debate, just last week he was featured on the BBC show HARDtalk where he had to defend his views from one of journalism's bulldogs; Stephen Sackur.

Abiogenesis a.k.a Alex Ries

I've decided to start a series on my favorite artists so from now on you can expect from me about a post a week featuring the works of one particularly creative genius. Painters, sculptors, musicians, writers, directors, engineers, architects, coders, ... artists of all stripes and colors will get a turn in the spotlight.

I am kicking things off with someone who many consider to be a god as he wields the power to pull never before seen fully living and breathing worlds into being. Perhaps the foremost SF artist of our times, he doesn't create pictures, he creates scenes so real they radiate history.

Alex Ries is a Melbourne based illustrator and concept artist with several years’ experience across the industry. His artworks have been featured by publishers including Cosmos Magazine, Pearson Education Canada, and the Discovery Channel.

Receiving his education at the University of Melbourne, Alex graduated with a Bachelor of Creative Arts. Studies in diverse visual media including painting, 3D visualisation and film provided a broad creative skills base from which to operate.

This education and experience, coupled with a strong interest in biology, zoology and real-world technology, has fostered an artistic style able to not only accurately illustrate life from the real world, but fictional life as well.

Rumor has it that he's been hard at work on a book that will detail the complete history of life on another world. From the planet's formation to the evolutionary origins of many of its species to ultimately the development of a culture that like us has managed to soar into space. Can't wait! :)