This originally appeared in the July/August issue of Discover journal. Support our science journalism by turning into a subscriber.
1. Take into consideration by yourself lucky to be alive now: In preindustrial periods, you could expect to dwell just thirty to forty decades. Now, the world-wide typical is seventy two.6.
2. Human longevity has amplified everywhere in the environment, but not equally. Even though lifestyle expectancy in ritzy Monaco is now approaching ninety, that superior fortune hasn’t achieved impoverished African nations around the world these as Chad, exactly where people really don’t expect to dwell substantially earlier 50.
three. For all its prosperity, the U.S. is a notable underachiever, with the typical remaining below 79 because of to intense cash flow inequality.
4. Where you dwell and when is only one particular element of the blend of factors, lucky or unfortunate, that figure out longevity household experiments show that genes account for twenty five p.c of the variation in lifestyle spans.
5. Luckiest of all was Frenchwoman Jeanne Calment, who died in 1997 at the age of 122. Calment gave up cigarette smoking at 117 — but by no means abandoned her behavior of ingesting a glass of port each individual night time.
6. A few researchers have questioned Calment’s age, speculating that her daughter may possibly have impersonated her to prevent inheritance tax.
seven. Despite the fact that all those statements are generally dismissed, the tendency to exaggerate your age does get additional intense with time. An believed ninety eight p.c of “supercentenarians” who declare to be more than the age of 115 are either lying or possessing a senior minute.
eight. The biblical Adam supposedly lived to 930, dying a relative youngster as opposed with Methuselah, whose fame rests on possessing lived to 969.
nine. The 17th-century British polymath Robert Hooke attributed the Previous Testomony figures’ purported longevity to the simple fact that Earth turned quicker in the earlier, little by little succumbing to friction. Talk about a spin career.
ten. A methuselah is also a unit of measurement for champagne, the name for an outsized container equal to 8 regular bottles. Wines, like champagne, age additional gracefully in these much larger vessels.
11. Some experiments have correlated pink wine with longevity, citing the salutary impact of the ingredient resveratrol in mice fed a high-calorie diet. But you’d have to drink hundreds of eyeglasses a day to match the quantity that lengthened the rodents’ lives.
12. A superior possibility may possibly be dietary restriction: Placing Caenorhabditis elegans on a fasting diet extends the minuscule worm’s lifestyle by forty p.c. Then once more, its typical lifespan is just a few months.
thirteen. It pays to be larger — substantially, substantially larger — than C. elegans, in particular if you are a mammal. A shrew is lucky to dwell for two decades, whereas bowhead whales can dwell for additional than two hundred.
14. But they’re not the oldest detail in the deep: A quahog clam specimen discovered off Iceland in 2006 was nicknamed Ming, after the Chinese dynasty during which it began its lifestyle. Researchers identified Ming was 507 decades old sad to say, that willpower came after the clam experienced been killed.
fifteen. A fortuitous name saved a 2,two hundred-year-old sequoia called Typical Sherman. The greatest tree in the environment, it was an interesting trophy for 19th-century loggers, but they did not minimize it down out of deference to the Civil War hero.
sixteen. Proposed lengthy-time period storage amenities for nuclear waste are substantially additional grimly named. These “mausoleums” have to keep people away for tens of countless numbers of decades, at minimal.
seventeen. How to alert potential generations to the mortal threat of lengthy-lived radioactivity continues to be a obstacle. Suggestions involve erecting large monuments topped with spikes and genetically engineering cats to adjust colour in response to radioisotopes — or just leaving term of the threat in the world’s libraries.
18. The oldest library in the environment, at St. Catherine’s Monastery on Mount Sinai in Egypt, has been run repeatedly since its founding in the late sixth century.
19. And composing elements like papyrus do have outstanding longevity: Egyptian shipping and delivery records relevant to the development of the pyramids have endured for virtually 4,600 decades.
20. On the other hand, all those Egyptian shipping and delivery records weren’t uncovered right until 2013. Potentially we ought to keep doing work on the colour-switching cats.
Jonathon Keats is a contributing editor to Uncover. His most new guide is You Belong to the Universe: Buckminster Fuller and the Future.