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Sorry to keep posting on the big ‘D’ topic (that nobody generally likes to talk about), but there’s been plenty of interesting articles which I felt worthy of linking to. The latest is over at New Scientist which has a detailed Death Special, covering everything from the rather macabre question of how it feels to die, through to the shifting definition of death itself, and whether we can do something about it.

One of the topics covered which would be of interest to most TDG readers is the afterlife question. In answer to this question, New Scientist have author Mary Roach discussing some of the experiments done to test whether there is something beyond death. However, it’s a rather disappointing essay, with Roach aiming to entertain more than enlighten. She finds a few cases worth chuckling about, and yet doesn’t mention more evidential material such as the ‘return’ of Fred Myers, the mediumship of Leonora Piper and Gladys Leonard, and the evidence of the ‘book tests’ (for a good run down of evidential material, see Michael Prescott’s blog entry on this very subject). The special also has an article on neurophysiologist Kevin Nelson’s theory that near-death experiences (NDEs) are actually the result of dream-like “REM Intrusions“. On the other side of the coin, the special also regurgitates an article from 2001 on Pim van Lommel’s oft-quoted research into the NDE which gave some credence to the mystery.

Lastly, Grailers might also be interested in another part of the Death Special, which looks at transhumanist efforts aiming at eternal life. The article isn’t overly supportive – quoting AI pioneer Marvin Minsky to ill effect – but there are some excellent video interviews with Anders Sandberg, Aubrey de Grey and Nick Bostrom about the topic which are well worth viewing. Certainly, this will be one of the ‘big’ topics over the next decade I’m sure. And if you think these topics on their own raise enough questions, what about mixing them – and asking if the transhumanist effort for eternal life may actually end up stopping people from experiencing the afterlife…