Ray & Terry’s ™ Research: Fantastic Voyage

September 4, 2009

What is the Fantastic Voyage? Written at the height of the Cold War, Isaac Asimov’s 1966 science-fiction thriller Fantastic Voyage shifted the public’s fascination from space travel to an even more fascinating journey-inside the human body. In the novel, scientists on “our side” as well as the unnamed “other side” have developed a miniaturization technology that promises victory for whoever can perfect it first. However, the technology has a fatal flaw: the miniaturization wears off quickly.

Professor Benes has figured out a breakthrough that overcomes this limitation, but before he has a chance to communicate his crucial insight, he falls into a coma, with a potentially fatal blood clot in his brain. Against a backdrop of international intrigue, our side sends in a submarine with a team of five people using the still time-limited miniaturization technology to travel inside Benes’s body and destroy the blood clot.

The team includes pilot Owens, who helms the submarine Proteus (now blood cell-size); Duvall, a brilliant neurosurgeon in charge of the medical mission; Peterson, the beautiful surgical assistant (played by Raquel Welch in the highly successful movie version); Michaels, a human-circulatory expert; and Grant, the mission leader from central intelligence. In the course of the drama, readers and moviegoers are treated to a genuinely fantastic voyage through the human body as the intrepid crew battles enormous white blood cells, insidious antibodies, annoying platelets, and a myriad of other threats as they struggle to achieve their goal before the miniaturization catastrophically wears off.

The metaphor of Fantastic Voyage fits our book on several levels. First, we hope to treat you, our readers, to a fantastic voyage through the human body. Our understanding of the complex processes underlying life, disease, and aging has progressed enormously since 1966. We now have an unprecedented ability to comprehend our biology at the level of the tiniest molecular structures. We also have the opportunity to vastly extend longevity, improve well-being, and expand our ability to experience the world around us.

Asimov’s fascination with miniaturization was prophetic. We are now in the early stages of a profound revolution in which we are indeed shrinking our technology down to the molecular level. We actually are developing blood cell-size submarines called nanobots (robots whose key features are measured in nanometers, or billionths of a meter) to be sent into the human body on vital health missions. Although we won’t literally be shrinking ourselves to ride inside these nanobots, as in Asimov’s imagined tale (at least not in the next several decades), we will be able to place ourselves in virtual-reality environments and see out of the eyes of these tiny robots. We will be able to control their movements as if we were inside, just as soldiers today remotely control intelligent weapons systems.

We invite you to explore and utilize the wealth of information contained in Fantastic Voyage: Live Long Enough to Live Forever in conjunction with our Ray & Terry’s Longevity Program.