did it! We launched What Is Universe. Or
rather, we RE-launched it. That’s right.
We had previous incarnations! But we evolve. We
survive. And that’s just as an online magazine! So
what of humanity itself? What is it in our very human
condition that both seeks to prolong life and by
extension, cannot simply accept death? In this two
part series, we ponder that question.
simply, the answer is in the question.
We are programmed to survive. And,
given our exceptional advances in both science
and art, it is only natural that we seek some method
of expressing both the aim and method of survival
beyond death and the inevitable march of time that
goes with that.
we see science and art as
opposites, they unite in that
basic quest: to prolong and extend life both before
and beyond the grave. And religious thought is
in fact our ally in that quest. It has both an aim
(afterlife, nirvana, heaven - all aims of religious
and philosophical contemplation) and method
(meditation, prayer, morality, adherence to a moral
code) in its bid to answer the innate need to ﬁnd a
hint of hope beyond time and death.
we at What Is Universe are
focused on science. We
will never be best buddies with say the creationist
lobby! Equally, whilst a magazine is a platform for
creative writing, we by no means claim to be artists.
But we can concede a common concern, a shared
quest and here, consider the scientiﬁc dimensions
to questions of identity and with that…mortality. It’s a
so, without further ado..let’s get this
The search for an extended or prolonged
life must begin with a logical starting
point of deﬁnition. What is life? In order
to ponder its end, we must master its
beginning and its most basic deﬁnition.
Life is the condition that distinguishes
animals and plants from inorganic
matter, including the capacity for
growth, reproduction, functional activity,
and continual change preceding death.
Life in EVERY form begins at the explosive
impact of the ‘Big Bang’. Granted it is
there that creationists will part company
with us. But it is an orthodox scientiﬁc
fact. Life began from an explosion of
universe deﬁning proportions.
It has happened once and it will happen
again. Who knows how many times this
article has been read throughout the
destruction and creation of the universe.
It is an unending process, once we reach
a certain threshold the system reboots
itself. It is inevitable and only one thing
is certain - the way life started it will end
that way too.
Earth will one day be a victim of an
inevitable explosion that will kill it
in its current form. The good news,
dear readers, is that it won’t happen
in your lifetime (or that of the next few
generations!). But you WILL be part of
a big bang on a microcosmic scale. The
day you are born and the day you die are
both explosions of cellular biology.
THE BIG BANG!
You have an initial instinct to survive,
but the biological mechanisms must
be developed to serve that instinct.
It’s just the beginning of a process of
growth: punctuated by major phases
from babyhood through adolescence
to adulthood, old age and yes - you
guessed it – death. The day that you stop
growing is the day that you begin dying,
albeit (hopefully) in a protracted manner
that encompasses a long and happy life.
And that very phrase ‘long and happy
life’ brings us to the next question.
WHO is it that ‘lives’ and WHAT is it that
‘dies’? Are we truly just a collection of
survival instincts in service of a cellular
cycle? If that were the case, then why
strive to extend life, let alone to embrace
the notion of a life beyond death? The
simple answer is that there IS no ‘simple
AN INSTINCT TO
At your most basic, you are a fusion of
cells. Those cells, in turn, develop, grow
and become the person: deﬁned by its
survival instincts from the moment of
birth. Believe it or not, you must LEARN
We may need to go one step further,
beyond the deﬁnition of life, and ask
Science and art are products of a shared
desire to somehow record and preserve
society: to embrace a common humanity
whilst leaving some lasting legacy. We
are NOT simply isolated individuals in
search of cellular survival. And it is in
that context that we as scientists (and by
extension, philosophers in logic) have
come to view existence as deﬁned by
consciousness. ‘I think, therefore I am’,
as Descartes once said.
Consciousness, in turn, leads to some
moral awareness: of society, of popularity,
of family and history. And there can be
no greater current expression of that
process than today’s ‘social networks’.
We leave behind a ‘digital ﬁngerprint’.
We post photographs, status updates
and so on. And it has already become an
outlet to outlive our physical ‘death’. The
tribute page; the residual heat we leave
online, like a radiator switched off and yet
still warming clothes.
It is clear that we have a consciousness;
an awareness of self both physical and
intellectual. And it is that awareness that
led to the development of art from the
days of primitive cave paintings to the
most advanced pieces by our greatest
artists and craftsmen and into our current
era of seemingly limitless technological
So far we have encountered two
different forms of intelligence, namely
non-conscious and conscious. These
forms of intelligence occur in two types,
either as biological life forms or electrical
devices made by humans. Currently
we are aware of no other forms of
intelligence, nor did we ﬁnd evidence of
the existence of intelligence (as we know
it) beyond the borders of our planet.
What is intelligence?
What is consciousness?
THE DIGITAL FOOTPRINT
The science of Cryonics is
real. We can lower the bodily
temperature of a human
being down to -120° C and
stop the process of aging
and death. Or we can save a
person whose illness cannot
be cured by today’s medicine
by preserving his body at
a suspended state until
future medical technologies
can bring him back to full
health. Today the process of
death can be slowed down
- tomorrow death could be
As for what really comes after
death? There is no ‘right’
answer. Even each religious
and philosophical grouping
has its own individual vision
of a ‘hereafter’ or lack thereof.
Today’s arts and media also
promise some sort of system
whereby a hero can cheat
death. Dr Who ‘regenerates’
and the Jedi in Star Wars
become ‘one with the Force’.
It could be as rich and varied
and dense as any one of
Or it could simply be an
unconscious, switched off,
like a redundant computer.
We simply don’t know. We
LIFE AFTER DEATH?
STAY TUNED FOR PART II
We leave a part of ourselves
online - memories, emotions,
snapshots of our lives - we
echo through time. Social
media has enabled us to
create a digital version of
ourselves - a proﬁle, an avatar,
a little piece of us that will
And yet, for all the online
ﬁngerprints and philosophical
deﬁnitions of ‘life’ there is still
no escaping the perils of age
and the ultimate ending that
is death. Do you really WANT
to come back? Do you really
WANT to live ‘forever’? Our
imaginations simply cannot
process the possibility -
there is no real ‘inﬁnity’ in our
The best we can manage
is to somehow curtail the
impact of the aging and dying
processes. We must now
treat our elderly with more
care and attention as a matter
of public policy priority.
At an aesthetic level, we
have developed partnerships
medicines and plastic
surgeries such as Botox that
can keep you looking that bit
younger. And if you really are
made of money (rather than
mere cellular material!)..then
why not opt for a cryogenic
can only speculate. But
one thing is for sure, our
unrelenting quest to at least
consider that question is
a great enhancement to
science and art and that
essence of civilised humanity
is something that will indeed
live forever. And we will return
to it in part two.
Can Stem Cell Research and
Cellular Regeneration Defeat
Does having a ‘clone’ create a
kind of second life?
How about ‘superspecies’
that exist beyond our
understanding of space and
Will Artiﬁcial Intelligence,
created by humans, be
We look forward to seeing