Tuesday, September 23, 2008


A few days ago I attended a research presentation about attempts to virtually unroll and read the ancient scrolls found at Herculaneum using proton-induced X-ray emission and a few other techniques I do not fully understand.

I soon found myself thinking about cryogenics or, more precisely, cryopreservation—i.e., the process of freezing humans, animals, or biological materials until they can be revived, fixed, or used. Initial attempts to open the Herculaneum scrolls were disastrous: they were torn, sliced, scraped, and dissolved until an 18th-century Vatican conservator was called in. If the technologies currently available to us do not enable us to read the carbonized scrolls that have not been destroyed already, then perhaps we should put the scrolls on ice and wait for another 250 years.