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Dear Evil Engineer: How can I cryogenically freeze my enemies?

Our resident evil engineer offers words of wisdom to a villain in need of some guidance from an evil genius.

Dear Evil Engineer,

I’m sure you are familiar with the debate within the villainy community about the benefits and drawbacks of keeping captured enemies alive for the purposes of boasting and taunting. I have always believed that a quick death by gunshot is too good for my enemies, and follow a policy of keeping them alive until I tire of them.

However, I have had difficulties with my enemies escaping and dismantling the evil and elaborate plans I explained to them with PowerPoint presentations only hours before. These unfortunate humiliations have caused some other market-leading villains to claim that I overemphasise villainous tradition at the expense of pragmatic decisionmaking; I am concerned that these comments are shaking shareholder confidence.

I’m considering the possibility of cryogenically freezing my enemies and stashing them away for me to defrost in the future, when I will taunt them a second time. This would make it impossible for them to compromise my plans while retaining my trademark theatricality.

Before I commit to spending a not-insignificant fraction of my annual budget on liquid nitrogen and start brainstorming ‘freezing’-related puns with my board of executives, could you advise me if this is an appropriate strategy for handling my enemies?

Yours sincerely,

A theatrical villain


Dear villain,

Thank you for your letter. I am familiar with this ongoing debate and have always expressed the opinion that every villain must handle their enemies in accordance with their management style: there is no one-size-fits-all solution. You are aware of the problems associated with keeping your enemies alive, and committed to resolving them. This is a good position to be in.

With regards to your query about cryogenically freezing your enemies, the short answer is that there is nothing to stop you cryogenically freezing them, but don’t expect to be able to bring them back to life afterwards.

Cryonics involves freezing the body to keep it intact until (speculative) future advances in biomedical technology make resuscitation possible. The preservation process must begin as soon as possible after heart death and before oxygen deprivation damages the brain too severely (‘information-theoretic death’). Cryoprotectants are used to prevent ice crystals forming and damaging tissue during the cooling. The body should be first lightly cooled in dry ice before liquid nitrogen is introduced to reach cryogenic temperatures of below -130°C. According to optimistic cryonicists, a body could be preserved like this indefinitely: intact and potentially repairable.

However, it would be irresponsible of me to neglect to mention the challenges associated with giving your enemies the choc-ice treatment.

There are medical-grade cryoprotectants already in use for preserving blood, sperm, eggs and extremely early-stage embryos, and scientists are even working to use cryoprotectants to preserve entire organs for transplants, but it is far from easy. Trying to preserve an entire body in this manner (particularly the brain, which would also be severely damaged by the cold) would be ambitious.

Even when cryoprotectants are successfully used to freeze tissues, further problems arise during defrosting as the tissue tends to fracture or – due to being forced to freeze amorphously – collapse into a sort of mulch. Cryoprotectants also tend to be deeply toxic, so even if you were able to revive your enemies, they may die before you have a chance to taunt them, and what a waste that would be!

Cryonicists are willing to gamble on the chance that yet-undeveloped technology could safely revive their bodies in the future, perhaps using swarms of nanorobots to fix molecular-level damage to cells or by cloning damaged parts of the body from recoverable DNA. However, the amount of legitimate scientific research being conducted into cryopreservation of entire bodies is almost non-existent.

Depending on your resources, you may be able to change that – blackmailing a leading biomedical research lab, for instance – but on the whole, I believe that researching how to bring people back to life is not the best use of a busy villain’s time and funds. If your shareholders are already beginning to doubt your villainous capabilities, take a moment to imagine their response to the news that you are investing in research to benefit humanity.

Perhaps I have been too discouraging. I must concede that cryogenically freezing your enemies and then disastrously attempting to revive them later
would certainly be evil, particularly if they turn into mulch when defrosted. If nothing else: dry ice and liquid nitrogen are undeniably theatrical!

The Evil Engineer

PS: Remember to always wear goggles and thermal gloves when handling cryofluids to miminise the risk of cold burns.

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