1. B-Gas
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    B-Gas Contributing Member

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    Immortality/Regeneration

    Discussion in 'Research' started by B-Gas, Mar 19, 2009.

    To all biologists out there-

    Is it theoretically possible for a creature to be immortal? Unkillable?

    This creature would be hand-made by a malevolent god, but I wanted to know if I was going into the murky areas of high fantasy or if there was some way it could be done.

    On a side note, is it at least possible for a creature to regenerate from wounds as quickly as Wolverine does? You know, grow back limbs in a number of hours, cuts don't stay for more than a few seconds, broken bone knit themselves back together by the time it starts moving again- you know?
     
  2. lordofhats
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    lordofhats Contributing Member

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    I'm not a biologist but I have studied this subject a bit. Technically no. It's impossible for any living thing to be able to survive a 400 meter drop from a aircraft flying at the speed of sound and not die. There is such of a thing as Biological Immortality, in which a typical causes of death is negated (aging). There are several real life forms that fit this concept, such as bacteria colonies, a simple life form called a Hydra, and a few kinds of Jelly Fish. It is theoretically possible some kinds of trees are biologically Immortal. For the most part though it probably isn't possible for a complex organism to achieve Biological Immortality. Humans may be highly advanced life, but the complex nature of our being also makes us easy to break and kill in comparison to simpler life forms. Thus far from what we know, a life form as complex as a human being probably can't achieve any physical sense of Immortality (minus the possible advance of cybernetics which might make it possible but then comes the question of whether one is really alive :p).

    I doubt it. Starfish and Sea Cucumbers can regenerate entire bodies, as can tape worms, but again, they're simpler life forms, and being so simple makes that regeneration possible. The human arm is probably far more complex on it's own than the body of a starfish, so how does it grow back? Also, notice, the above are invertebrates. Bone, technically isn't alive. Cells can regenerate at amazing rates, but where would the material to rebuild that bone come from and what would allow it to grow in place and properly? It's probably not a realistic notion.

    Luckily in the world of fiction what you the writer says goes :p. You can write about an immortal and the story won't necessarily be fantasy. It will depend on content and theme how the work is viewed.
     
  3. Acglaphotis
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    Immortality is not that simple for multi-cellular organisms. The regeneration could be possible in tissue, provided there is enough energy to do it, but bone regeneration is a bit trickier. I do recall a jellyfish capable of reversing itself to childhood and grow back as an adult indefinitely.

    Edit: Oh, come on LoH! 3 minutes!
     
  4. lordofhats
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    lol. Iz in ur computerz, beat'n u to ur postz :p
     
  5. pacmansays
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    pacmansays Senior Member

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    It's possible that they cannot physically age: our bodies are in a constant state of repair, we cut ourselves and our body fixes it, we bruise ourselves and it eventually is repaired. There is a chemical that controls this repair of the bodies but for some reason as you grow older is slowly switches itself off. Wrinkles, bad backs, joint pains, greying hair are all due to your body not repairing it's daily wear and tear so much. Scientists have been experimenting on changing the switch off point of this chemical and so far tests on bugs have extended their lives from a few days to two weeks.

    However, there is one animal in nature which for some reason doesn't age, it remains as fertile and healthy at 60 as it was at 20. This animal is a turtle. I won't go into it but here's a link to an article

    http://www.barryyeoman.com/articles/turtles.html

    However, it is unlikely that an organism could survive most deadly situations, unless it's inherited traits that allow it to survive that particular situation then it will most likely die.
     
  6. B-Gas
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    B-Gas Contributing Member

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    So... no bones. That kind of fits, anyway- it's not like this behemoth was meant to be humanoid, after all.

    Can a bug regenerate its limbs? Are there any insects that can do that?

    (by the way, the story is high fantasy; I just wanted to see if there was some way of this creature actually existing)
     
  7. A2theDre
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    A2theDre Active Member

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    In regards to the regeneration, you must take into account the law of conservation of energy, which states that the amount of energy in the universe never increases or decreases, but merely changes forms. As a simple example, the kinetic energy of an airplane transfers to heat energy in the tyres when it comes to a stop.

    In terms of human regeneration, look at normal wounds we receive throughout our lives. Our body takes time to heal these wounds because it has to route some of the energy to the wound. If the body were to route all energy to the wound, then the wound would heal quicker, but the body may well shut down completely. For a human, or indeed, another lifeform, to regenerate limbs or bodies in a matter of hours, it would require a much larger intake of energy than that of a normal state.

    Don't know if this helps but you may be able to incorporate it so that it sounds more science-y rather than fantasy.
     
  8. B-Gas
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    B-Gas Contributing Member

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    Okay. So out go the laws of thermodynamics on this one. I'm making the assumption that energy and matter conservation laws can be safely discarded, or used as good reference points rather than 'laws'. Malevolent god, remember?

    So, insects, anyone?
     
  9. lordofhats
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    lordofhats Contributing Member

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    If it's a god why would he need a scientific explanation at all? He can ignore anything. He's god.
     
  10. A2theDre
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    Well damn, my first post was shut down :p

    In that case though, have a look at the myriad forms of life on this planet, and note how different things in their genetic makeup renders them "unkillable" in a certain way. For example, (and I may be wrong on this one), ants can't die from falling from heights. Their body needs more than its terminal velocity for it to die from trauma. Scales on fish (dragons, even), shells on turtles. Could you combine features similar to these on your creature? I assume the malevolent god isn't controlled by vanity and doesn't mind an ugly creation?
     
  11. B-Gas
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    @ LoH:Gah. Not what I meant. Sorry.

    I meant that this creature was designed from the ground up. Made specifically for its task. Thus, traditional rules, like how many brains a creature has, no longer apply. I didn't mean that the creature is a god. He was made by a god. Made special. Hence, the regeneration and immortality. I need to know if there's any way that he could theoretically pull that off without resorting to "it's magic don't question it."
     
  12. Acglaphotis
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    But it was made by a god right? Then, it's more like:

    It's omnipotency; don't question it.
     
  13. B-Gas
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    B-Gas Contributing Member

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    Indeed. But I don't want to resort to that.
     
  14. HeinleinFan
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    Huh. Well... so, I'm a bio major. There are ways you can make something immortal in longevity terms - that is, it won't die provided it doesn't get sick or get killed in an accident or starve to death. Lots of stem cells, "reset" type genes like the jellyfish someone already mentioned, long and regenerating telomeres, a really amazing DNA polymerase that never makes point mutations, double DNA strand breaks that never cause cancer...

    But it's very very hard to make something that recovers quickly from a gaping injury. Much less from being hit with, say, a meteor strike. Or falling a thousand feet.

    You can twist and exaggerate things, but in the end if you're disregarding chemical kinetics and cell growth in order to justify having your pet monster, Bob, live through a nuclear blast, you might as well call it magic.

    So. That being said, you can give your monster fast blood clotting. Special armor that is loose and easy to move around in and which hardens extremely quickly when struck by anything moving quickly. (This sort of material already exists. Who said that animal had to be that awesome on its own? Why shouldn't the malignant god provide armor and bulletproof vests?) Have stem cells ready to repair wounds, or make all of the creature's cells capable of reverting.

    Give your creature intelligence and very well-developed biotech - so if he attacks something and the something cuts through his hamstring, he isn't hobbled forever but can go to a machine and have the hamstring sewed back up and his leg set in a cast.

    Give your creature an amazing adrenaline rush so it can't feel pain when angry. Or let it release a variant of bradykinen so that its pain receptors are blocked during moments of high stress.

    Let it communicate thoughts very quickly - maybe through something like telepathy. Give this creature littermates, born and raised at the same time and by the same terrible and awesome god. When one littermate dies, killed by Knight Goodlydoer, the others might know everying that happened in the fight and may come to avenge their brother's death.

    And it's late - early, actually - so I should quit there. But hopefully those thoughts were somewhat useful to you.
     
  15. B-Gas
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    Thank you, HeinleinFan. That's a load of good concepts to think through. The creature is in a medieval-style fantasy setting, and the worst it would need to survive would be a group cavalry charge with lances, or possibly a quick assault by siege weaponry. It's about the size and rough shape of a bus, insectoid and flexible, with large, muscular insect limbs arranged in small clusters along its length. Each limb cluster has its own minor brain and its own eye cluster, so that it can defend itself without needing to think about its entire body. It's the biological equivalent of a tank.

    Its iron-hard layered chitin armor slides shut over any breach, which clots almost instantly and knits itself closed in minutes. It doesn't age, it doesn't tire, it doesn't scar and if a part is broken, it can shut itself down to recover. No one brain is necessary, as every one can be rewired to be the 'main' one while it repairs injuries. It doesn't have long-term memories, only short-term ones that are shared throughout the body.

    Just to be mean, it does have two huge black eyes on the front of its head. Two huge eyes that are made of unobtainium. Weapons shatter against those false eyes. And no-one lives to warn others against it.

    Pain is a good point- if it isn't capable of feeling pain, but feels more of a distant concept of 'damage,' would that work? Is there a biological precedent for that, human or otherwise?

    On the concept of simple-creature regeneration- is there precedent for multiple 'simple creatures' living in one body, each one regenerating really quickly on its own?
     

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