Could You Live Forever?


Vsauce, I’m Van Helsing … Dr. Jake Van
Helsing. I hear that there is somebody ill inside. Oh, this is beautiful. Absolutely gorgeous
and do you smell that? You can smell the sickness in the air. No really you can. Doctors, other
than myself, did a study that shows that our pheromones change when we are sick. For example
if someone has diabetes their breath can become stale or sour. Is the patient in here? Oh my my, this is curious. Well…I have good news and I have bad news.
The good news is that your study is fantastic. Kudos to your interior decorator. The bad
news is that this man is spectacularly no longer alive. He is quite dead. You know, something interesting happens when
you die. Parts of you are still alive, for example most of our cells are unaware and
continue their metabolic functions. But when you do die your heart stops beating
which keeps oxygen from going to your organs. Without oxygen your brain can’t regulate
the body’s functions and it can no longer support consciousness. At this point, the
cells start dying. But the 4 pounds of bacteria you have in your gut are still very much alive,
and since they have no immune system to stop them, start to consume you from the inside
out. But isn’t that what we are all after … the
pursuit of life. The ability to live forever, to not be forgotten. So let’s imagine living
forever. Close your eyes and really imagine it. Time is vast. It is easy to envision a hundred
years, a thousand years. But imagine 5 billion years from now when our Sun becomes a Red
Giant and begins to expand. The oceans on Earth boil away and eventually the Sun devours
our planet. And there you are 5 billion years later which would still be a speck of dust
in the infinite life ahead of you. Open your eyes and I want you to imagine something
else. Imagine no longer being alive. You can’t can you? We can’t comprehend nothingness,
just thinking about nothing is something. But we know at some point we are going to
die yet we can’t imagine not being alive. It’s called the Mortality Paradox. And this
is what drives humanity to pursue living forever. Some of us try to achieve it in very different
ways, like your friend here who did not die of natural causes. In fact, the cause was
quite … unnatural. As a Van Helsing, one of my fields of study is Vampirism, and judging
by the two holes on his neck, he’s on his way to becoming a vampire … he could turn
at any moment … you might want to look away. Oh! I missed! Back demon, back! Back! Just the idea of extending one’s existence
drives man towards seeking out or pursuing an idea like vampirism, but its not as if
this concept is foreign or as crazy as some other pursuits. If we go back 4,000 years to 2,100BC we have
one of the first great works of literature, the Epic of Gilgamesh, where Gilgamesh goes
on a journey to find the secret of eternal life. Fast forward to 220BC with Qin Shi Huang,
the first emperor of China, who tried so hard to fend off death that if you mentioned the
word around him you would be executed. He was so afraid of dying that he went so far
as to have a giant barricade built, what we now know as the Great Wall of China. He also
famously sent an expedition of over 1000 people on a mission to find the elixir of immortality
– that precious liquid that would keep him alive. In a cruel case of irony, Qin Shi Huang ended
up dying by ingesting mercury pills that his physicians had thought would do just the opposite.
Now, to live forever it’s generally required that you already be alive … but what if
there was a way to bring you back once you had passed on? I have a colleague who’s
been working on something quite … shocking that we could try.Let me grab that corpse
and I’ll meet you at my friend’s laboratory – look for the sign that says Dr. Victor Frankenstein. Gah! Electricity really is a modern marvel,
isn’t it? Back in ancient Greece it was believed that our muscles contracted because
of fluid flowing through our nerves and that was the thinking for 1500 years. Then it was
considered that animal spirits were the cause. And then came electricity! In the 1780s Luigi Galvani discovered that
if he attached electrodes to muscles and sent a current of electricity through it, the muscles
would start to move. He tried it most famously with frog legs and his nephew made the next
logical step and used it on the body of a recently deceased criminal. During the public
demonstration the jaw began to quiver, the right hand clenched open and closed, legs
and thighs began to move and an eye even popped open. Most spectators thought they were witnessing
a re-animation. Now, if Frankenstein’s and I’s theory
is correct, with the right amount of continuous electricity, distributed across the body proportionally,
we should be able to re-ignite that spark of life – our modern prometheus. Yes! Yes! It’s working! It’s working!
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair! So … it turns out I was wrong. Galvani thought
that what he was witnessing was “animal electricity”, a fluid similar to normal
electricity that flowed through an animal’s muscles and nerves. When in reality it was
just the muscles reacting to the electrical current coming into contact with two different
metals in a damp environment. But there are other options for resurrection. Cryonics is the preservation of human bodies
in extremely cold temperatures, below -238F. Currently you could get yourself crypreserved
immediately after death for the low price of $200,000 – or if that is a little rich
for your blood – just the head for $80,000 in hopes that one day science will be able
to revive you. It is the incredibly cold version of a mummy.
And speaking of which, the reason ancient Egyptians put so much effort into the proper
preservation of their dead was in hopes that if the corpse was suddenly brought back to
life, they’d still be themselves. Side note: One of the substances used to treat the body
is called bitumen which in Persian is mum hence the reason we call them mummies. Unfortunately, electrification, cryopreservation,
and mummification have yet to revive any person. However, the ancient Egyptians did have a
back-up plan for living forever which is actually pretty simple: You don’t have to be alive
to be immortal. Stop right there. Yes, don’t move. In Homer’s
Iliad, Achilles is given the choice between a long life or eternal glory. He chose eternal
glory because he knew that long after his death, he would still be remembered – he would
live on the lips of every person. Let’s try something, I want you to tell me right
off the top of your head the names of your great-grandparents. Do you know? It has been estimated that the majority of
us will be remembered for 75 years at most. The ancient Egyptians called this the second
death, when their names would be forgotten. Admittedly I am not a very good artist but
what drawings, paintings and photographs do is capture you, you in that specific moment
and they keep you there forever. Time can age the canvas but it can’t age you. We could go to the museum down the road and
look at paintings and murals from a thousand years ago. The physical bodies of the people
represented long gone but their image, their history, that feeling of who they were still
remains. We all live forever, genetically. We could
trace our genes back millions of years, and we continue to push our genetics forward.
As Einstein said “Our death is not an end if we can live on in our children, for they
are us; our bodies are only wilted leaves on the tree of life”. We spend so much time
concerned with who is doing what or how they feel that we forget to focus on us. When people
look at a photo or painting of you, what will they say? What legacy will you leave behind?
How will I be remembered? In the words of Jorge Luis Borges, “Except for man, all
creatures are immortal, for they are ignorant of death.” And … as always … thanks for watching. I’d like to thank Showtime and Penny Dreadful
for allowing me to film on their incredible sets. The show really is amazing, I’ve been
a huge fan of it. And I’d especially like to thank these amazing peoples, there we are,
thank you for making this awesome video with me. Thanks. Yaaaaaay.

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