This at first appeared in the July/August problem of Discover magazine. Guidance our science journalism by turning out to be a subscriber.


1. Look at yourself blessed to be alive today: In preindustrial times, you could anticipate to are living just thirty to forty years. Now, the world-wide regular is seventy two.6.

2. Human longevity has greater everywhere in the entire world, but not similarly. Though daily life expectancy in ritzy Monaco is now approaching ninety, that very good fortune has not attained impoverished African nations these as Chad, the place folks do not anticipate to are living substantially past 50.

3. For all its wealth, the U.S. is a noteworthy underachiever, with the regular remaining below 79 owing to severe cash flow inequality.

4. Where by you are living and when is only one part of the blend of factors, blessed or unlucky, that figure out longevity relatives research present that genes account for twenty five per cent of the variation in daily life spans.

5. Luckiest of all was Frenchwoman Jeanne Calment, who died in 1997 at the age of 122. Calment gave up using tobacco at 117 — but hardly ever abandoned her habit of drinking a glass of port every single night time.

6. A couple researchers have questioned Calment’s age, speculating that her daughter may well have impersonated her to steer clear of inheritance tax.

7. Whilst people statements are commonly dismissed,  the inclination to exaggerate your age does get much more severe with time. An believed 98 per cent of “supercentenarians” who assert to be around the age of a hundred and fifteen are both lying or owning a senior instant.

8. The biblical Adam supposedly lived to 930, dying a relative youngster when compared with Methuselah, whose fame rests on owning lived to 969.

nine. The 17th-century British polymath Robert Hooke attributed the Outdated Testament figures’ purported longevity to the point that Earth turned more rapidly in the past, slowly succumbing to friction. Chat about a spin work.

10. A methuselah is also a device of measurement for champagne, the title for an oversized container equal to eight typical bottles. Wines, such as champagne, age much more gracefully in these more substantial vessels.

11. Some research have correlated purple wine with longevity, citing the salutary result of the component resveratrol in mice fed a large-calorie diet program. But you’d have to consume hundreds of glasses a working day to match the amount that lengthened the rodents’ lives.

12. A improved option may well be nutritional restriction: Putting Caenorhabditis elegans on a fasting diet program extends the minuscule worm’s daily life by forty per cent.  Then once again, its regular lifespan is just a couple months.

thirteen. It pays to be bigger — substantially, substantially bigger — than C. elegans, primarily if you are a mammal. A shrew is blessed to are living for two years,  whereas bowhead whales can are living for much more than two hundred.

14. But they are not the oldest matter in the deep: A quahog clam specimen observed off Iceland in 2006 was nicknamed Ming, immediately after the Chinese dynasty throughout which it commenced its daily life. Scientists established Ming was 507 years old sad to say, that dedication arrived immediately after the clam had been killed.

15. A fortuitous title saved a 2,two hundred-calendar year-old sequoia called Normal Sherman. The major tree in the entire world, it was an appealing trophy for 19th-century loggers, but they didn’t slice it down out of deference to the Civil War hero.

sixteen. Proposed extended-expression storage facilities for nuclear waste are substantially much more grimly named. These “mausoleums” have to maintain folks away for tens of thousands of years, at minimum amount.

seventeen. How to alert foreseeable future generations to the mortal danger of extended-lived radioactivity remains a obstacle. Strategies include erecting giant monuments topped with spikes and genetically engineering cats to improve color in reaction to radioisotopes — or just leaving word of the risk in the world’s libraries.

18. The oldest library in the entire world, at St. Catherine’s Monastery on Mount Sinai in Egypt, has been run repeatedly since its founding in the late sixth century.

19. And writing products like papyrus do have amazing longevity: Egyptian shipping and delivery data related to the design of the pyramids have endured for practically 4,600 years. 

20. On the other hand, people Egyptian shipping and delivery data weren’t uncovered until eventually 2013. Probably we really should maintain doing the job on the color-changing cats.  


Jonathon Keats is a contributing editor to Learn. His most the latest ebook is You Belong to the Universe: Buckminster Fuller and the Foreseeable future.