cover image Immorality: How Science Is Extending Your Life Span- And Changing the World

Immorality: How Science Is Extending Your Life Span- And Changing the World

Ben Bova. William Morrow & Company, $24 (283pp) ISBN 978-0-380-97518-1

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. (Aug.)