Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Immortality, suckas!

Whabam! The year is 2006, and you are in THE FUTURE. You notice that there are people commuting to work on jet-powered back packs. Whizzing over head are flying motorcars! This is the world of the future- streamlined, optimized, and shiny.

But did we mention the people piloting those automobiles were 300 hundred years old?

Immortality has captivated (wo)man's mind since, well, we came up with shit like an immortal soul. We don't deal particularly well with death and the extinguish of our essential being. It disturbs us.

In less than a century, we have done something incredible- we have raised the average lifespan by thirty years. This is no small feat. Science has given us marvelous things, but one may argue the greatest being....fat babies. The strongest correlation that we have to longevity in life is birth weight. Look at these pretty data

If you follow this link you get some good explanation. Basically, what we see is that as birth weights became higher, so did life span. This is due to prenatal development- higher birth weight babies had optimal development. However there is a limit that we seem to be reaching. 

It appears to be something we want in moderation. Ultra high birth weight babies also suffer the same fate as their under weight friends- an earlier death. They are at risk for obesity and cardiovascular disease. 

The reason we were able to drastically add 30 years in under a century is because we were able to engineer food for mom. Better nutrition and prenatal care means ideal conditions for a baby's development. The Haber- Bosch method may be the single greatest contribution to our longevity- and one of the single greatest inventions of all time. Want to know why you aren't starving right now, with a 7 billion other people on the planet? Yeah thank these motherfuckers. Half of the protein in your body was synthesized from nitrogen fixed using their method. Good stuff...

So back to immortality. It seems as we are approaching the upper limits of our longevity. Because as we grow older, we don't just face the problem of nutrition, but also chronic disease. Up until now in human history, our increasing life span can be accredited to better accumulation of resources. Our ancestors lived short, hard lives but didn't batter cancer in old age. This is the problem we face next- engineering our bodies so that they do not age.

Though this guy is pretty out there, and most of the scientific community rejects his 'answers', Aubrey de Grey raises many key problems in the race to live forever.

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