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A Beginner's Guide to Immortality

Frankenblog | 4 July 2005

Prof Tony Linnane, Rhonda Fitzgerald, Kylie Ahern, Russell Blackford, Wilson da Silva and Dr Chris Lawson
Prof Tony Linnane, Rhonda Fitzgerald, Kylie Ahern, Russell Blackford, Wilson da Silva and Dr Chris Lawson

By Chris Lawson

Australia has a brand-new popular science magazine. It’s called COSMOS, partly in honour of Carl Sagan.

I met the editor, Wilson da Silva, publisher, Kylie Ahern, and marketing guru, Rachel Fitzgerald last night at a dinner meeting held by COSMOS for the national science teachers’ convention (CONASTA, neat name).

Alongside Professor Tony Linnane and Russell Blackford, I was asked to share a panel called “A Beginner’s Guide to Immortality” on the science and philosophy of anti-ageing technology. The topic tied in with COSMOS’s inaugural cover story.

It was somewhat intimidating to have to hold my own against the co-panellists. Russell Blackford, as I hope you all know, is a highly regarded SF writer with a very strong academic background, and is one of the few people I know who has an understanding of both the technical and the legal and ethical implications of technology. Professor Linnane is a power-house of knowledge, and at seventy-five (and belligerently refusing to consider retirement), a walking example of a long active life.

When Wilson da Silva introduced us as “leading thinkers”, I felt rather a sham. Perhaps I could lead the thinkers to the bar afterwards.

Anyway, the session was a hoot. Tony Linnane was a ball of skeptical energy. Russell Blackford was his usual thought-provoking self. The teachers seemed to have a lot of fun. Once I mellowed, I even managed to squeeze out a punchline I was proud of.

But back to COSMOS. The magazine is wonderful. It has the production values of a top-class journal, and the content is fantastic. The magazine has managed to chart a course between the Scylla of technical rigour and the Charybdis of popular interest with a nuance that is second only to New Scientist. And unlike New Scientist, COSMOS is prepared to print lengthy articles (the cover story runs to ten pages). It even publishes short fiction (this issue has a reprint of Ray Bradbury’s beautiful, sad “There Will Come Soft Rains”).

COSMOS has an amazing editorial advisory board, with Robyn Williams, Buzz Aldrin, and Damien Broderick and others. It is the brainchild of Wilson da Silva, one of Australia’s most experienced science journalists, and it’s clear he loves what he’s doing and thinks it’s terribly important to the future of the country. I happen to agree with him. I hope COSMOS takes off and I was honoured to play my small part in its launch.

If you read Frankenblog, you will undoubtably enjoy the stories by Richard Dawkins, Bruce Sterling, Buzz Aldrin, and others, and you will be supporting a venture much needed in this country. Please consider subscribing to COSMOS.

Dr Chris Lawson is a general practitioner and writer whose fiction has appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction, Event Horizon, Dreaming Down-Under, Gathering the Bones, Agog! and Eidolon, as well as several Year’s Best anthologies and Under Centaurus, a historical retrospective of Australian science fiction. His work has been translated into French, Czech, and Bulgarian, and optioned for feature film development.


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