PBS // 2011 // 60 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Kent Dixon (Retired) // April 24th, 2011
New technology for a longer life.
Urban legends of Walt Disney cryogenically frozen and Hitler's brain in a jar aside, it's human nature to wonder about our existence. While some of us may wonder what happens after death or how they get the caramel into those little chocolate squares, there are also questions about our time on Earth and the quality of life we might expect for ourselves and future generations. Will scientific research and technology advance to the point where terminal illness and disease will become ancient history? Or, if I remain healthy throughout my entire life, how long might I live?
Premiering in 2005, NOVA scienceNOW, an offshoot of the legendary PBS series NOVA, takes a lighter approach to some fascinating topics and issues from the universe and scientific phenomena to issues such as travel to Mars, the intelligence of animals and the origins of our species. Beginning with the show's second season, American astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson took the reigns as the series' host, leading viewers through the fascinating content presented on each episode. Tyson may be familiar to science documentary fans for the quirky and engaging style he first showed in episodes of The History Channel's popular series The Universe.
Each episode is broken down into shorter stories with an approach similar to 60 Minutes. Can We Live Forever? tackles the following five fascinating concepts that are all related to human longevity:
* "Can My Car Live Forever?"
Retired science teacher Irv Gordon has proven that by following the simple maintenance guidelines for his vehicle, he has managed to keep his 1966 Volvo looking and running in mint condition for four decades and more than 2.7 million miles.
* "Body Shop...Body Parts"
University of Minnesota scientists are working on ways to grow custom organs that would conform to a patient's unique genetic signature, eliminating concerns about potential rejection.
* "Can We Slow Aging?"
By studying microscopic worms and identifying and tweaking a particular gene that extends their lifespan, scientists are exploring whether the same gene in humans might be the link in extending our lifespan as well.
* "Profile: Jason Leigh"
Computer scientist and self-confessed sci-fi geek Jason Leigh is working on cutting-edge avatar technology that may one day allow our unique personality, ideas, knowledge and experience to continue to exist well beyond our physical lifespan.
* "Human Hibernation"
We've all heard or read stories of how, despite hypothermic conditions and no measurable heartbeat or respiration, people have survived being buried in snow or plunged into icy water. ER doctors are intentionally chilling their patients to halt the affects of serious medical emergencies, buying them vital time to help their patients.
It's amazing how much content is crammed into just 60 minutes of Can We Live Forever?. Not only is the content itself fascinating and compelling, the scientists and researchers we meet in each segment are clearly jazzed about their research. While some of this research could be at least partly inspired by vanity or a fear of the unknown, there's a significant amount of work being done that could change the nature of human lives forever.
For a contemporary science documentary, Can We Live Forever? delivers a fairly lackluster presentation, with an often soft and blurry full frame picture and a ho-hum audio mix. Fortunately, the content and deGrasse's quirky narration and hosting style pick up some of the slack. There are no extra features of any kind with this release.
While this isn't a series I'd watch religiously, Can We Live Forever?
sheds some light on some very cool scientific research that might affect our
lives sooner than later. So until you can have your brain transplanted into a
robot, or pack yourself in ice next to the fish sticks, pull up a chair and have
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 60 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Official Site