MEDICAL TIME TRAVEL
A QUESTION OF SCIENCE
Brian Wowk, Ph.D.
Time travel is a solved problem. Einstein showed that if you
travel in a spaceship for months at speeds close to the speed of
light, you can return to earth centuries in the future. Unfor-
tunately for would-be time travelers, such spacecraft will not
be available until centuries in the future.
Rather than Einstein, nature relies on Arrhenius to achieve
time travel. The Arrhenius equation of chemistry describes
how chemical reactions slow down as temperature is reduced.
Since life is chemistry, life itself slows down at cooler tem-
peratures. Hibernating animals use this principle to time
travel from summer to summer, skipping winters when food
Medicine already uses this kind of biological time travel.
When transplantable organs such as hearts or kidneys are
removed from donors, the organs begin dying as soon as their
blood supply stops. Removed organs have only minutes to
live. However with special preservation solutions and cool-
ing in ice, organs can be moved across hours of time and
thousands of miles to waiting recipients. Cold slows chemical
processes that would otherwise be quickly fatal.