Reports of a death exaggerated

by Doug Muir on May 28, 2024

Here’s a metaphor. There’s an elderly person you’ve known for years.  Not a close relative, no, but someone whose career you’ve followed.  You feel tremendous respect for them, maybe some affection. They’re getting old and frail, but they’ve kept active.  Now and then you might see an article or something, and you’ll think, huh: still with us.

And then something terrible happens, and they’re incapacitated, helpless, unable to speak anything but gibberish. Death seems imminent.

So the family rolls the dice on high risk, experimental brain surgery. And to everyone’s surprise, it works! 

Mostly works. Your friend is still very frail, and they’ve definitely lost a step. The inevitable end has only been delayed.

But — they can speak, slowly but clearly. They can take care of themselves and carry out basic functions. They’re alive. You can talk to them.  They’re even still able to work!  At least, a little.  So you maybe haven’t seen the last article.  It’s an unexpected, surprise reprieve: you have them for a bit longer, another year or two or three.

That’s what it feels like.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }


NomadUK 05.28.24 at 12:37 pm

The probe is humanity’s most distant emissary as it explores interstellar space—the space between stars.

Perhaps unsurprising that clarifying the meaning of ‘interstellar’ is required for Forbes readers.


Paul 05.28.24 at 4:01 pm

And I thought it was describing one or the other current candidates for President. (I’m 83).


CarlD 05.28.24 at 4:03 pm

NUK, so easy to confuse with intrastellar.


Moz in Oz 05.29.24 at 4:07 am

CarlD: not for experiental learners :)

OP: except that there’s no element of cruelty to the patient the way there is with many experiments or outright tortures that are done to patients unable to express their wishes. The euthenasia debates are merely the most obvious symptiom of that. But they don’t apply to (current) machines as far as we know. And obviously there’s an XKCD for that:

It does remind me of Freddy Mercury desperately recording vocals while he still could in order to release one last album. very extra day he could do that let him get closer to his usual high standards.


Alan White 05.29.24 at 5:37 am

The whole scenario really has been an excellent tribute to human ingenuity from start to finish. It’s hard to find pride in being human these days given politics–but this reminder certainly helps.


John Q 05.29.24 at 7:30 am

We will not see their like again, at least in my lifetime.


pouncer 05.29.24 at 11:21 pm

The patch as described seems analogous to diagnosing a failed liver and doing surgery to distribute the most critical liver functions among spleen, pancreas, part of a kidney, one tonsil, the pineal gland, and a prostate that wasn’t being used much anymore anyhow.


KT2 06.14.24 at 4:16 am

“Voyager 1 Returning Science Data From All Four Instruments
June 13, 2024
“On May 19, the mission team executed the second step of that repair process and beamed a command to the spacecraft to begin returning science data. Two of the four science instruments returned to their normal operating modes immediately. Two other instruments required some additional work, but now, all four are returning usable science data.

“The four instruments study plasma waves, magnetic fields, and particles. Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 are the only spacecraft to directly sample interstellar space, which is the region outside the heliosphere — the protective bubble of magnetic fields and solar wind created by the Sun.

“While Voyager 1 is back to conducting science, additional minor work is needed to clean up the effects of the issue. Among other tasks, engineers will resynchronize timekeeping software in the spacecraft’s three onboard computers so they can execute commands at the right time. The team will also perform maintenance on the digital tape recorder, which records some data for the plasma wave instrument that is sent to Earth twice per year. (Most of the Voyagers’ science data is sent directly to Earth and not recorded.)


KT2 06.17.24 at 5:40 am

No wonder Voyager’s last so long. “He served as Voyager’s sole project scientist from 1972 until his retirement in 2022.”

Links in article.

“In Memoriam: Dr. Ed Stone, Former NASA JPL Director and Voyager Project Scientist

“.He had the distinction of being one of the few scientists involved with both the mission that has come closest to the Sun (NASA’s Parker Solar Probe) and the one that has traveled farthest from it (Voyager). 

“Stone is best known for his work on NASA’s longest-running mission, Voyager, whose twin spacecraft launched in 1977 and are still exploring deep space today. He served as Voyager’s sole project scientist from 1972 until his retirement in 2022. Under Stone’s leadership, the mission took advantage of a celestial alignment that occurs just once every 176 years to visit Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune.

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