20 Things You Didn’t Know About Longevity

This at first appeared in the July/August difficulty of Discover journal. Guidance our science journalism by getting to be a subscriber.


one. Consider on your own fortunate to be alive right now: In preindustrial periods, you could anticipate to dwell just 30 to forty decades. Now, the worldwide common is 72.6.

2. Human longevity has elevated just about everywhere in the entire world, but not similarly. Although life expectancy in ritzy Monaco is now approaching 90, that good fortune has not arrived at impoverished African nations this sort of as Chad, exactly where men and women do not anticipate to dwell a great deal past 50.

3. For all its wealth, the U.S. is a noteworthy underachiever, with the common remaining under 79 thanks to excessive profits inequality.

four. Wherever you dwell and when is only 1 portion of the blend of things, fortunate or unfortunate, that ascertain longevity loved ones studies clearly show that genes account for 25 % of the variation in life spans.

five. 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 deserted her routine of ingesting a glass of port each and every night time.

6. A number of researchers have questioned Calment’s age, speculating that her daughter may possibly have impersonated her to stay clear of inheritance tax.

7. Whilst those people promises are commonly dismissed,  the tendency to exaggerate your age does get additional excessive with time. An estimated 98 % of “supercentenarians” who claim to be more than the age of one hundred fifteen are possibly lying or owning a senior second.

eight. The biblical Adam supposedly lived to 930, dying a relative youngster in contrast with Methuselah, whose fame rests on owning lived to 969.

nine. The seventeenth-century British polymath Robert Hooke attributed the Outdated Testament figures’ purported longevity to the simple fact that Earth turned quicker in the past, steadily succumbing to friction. Converse about a spin position.

10. A methuselah is also a device of measurement for champagne, the name for an outsized container equivalent to eight typical bottles. Wines, including champagne, age additional gracefully in these larger sized vessels.

eleven. Some studies have correlated purple wine with longevity, citing the salutary effect of the component resveratrol in mice fed a large-calorie diet program. But you’d have to drink hundreds of glasses a day to match the quantity that lengthened the rodents’ life.

twelve. A improved possibility may possibly be dietary restriction: Putting Caenorhabditis elegans on a fasting diet program extends the minuscule worm’s life by forty %.  Then all over again, its usual lifespan is just a number of weeks.

thirteen. It pays to be bigger — a great deal, a great deal bigger — than C. elegans, especially if you are a mammal. A shrew is fortunate to dwell for two decades,  while bowhead whales can dwell for additional than two hundred.

14. But they are not the oldest issue in the deep: A quahog clam specimen discovered off Iceland in 2006 was nicknamed Ming, after the Chinese dynasty for the duration of which it started its life. Scientists determined Ming was 507 decades old sadly, that dedication arrived after the clam experienced been killed.

fifteen. A fortuitous name saved a 2,two hundred-year-old sequoia termed Common Sherman. The biggest tree in the entire world, it was an captivating trophy for 19th-century loggers, but they did not lower it down out of deference to the Civil War hero.

sixteen. Proposed prolonged-expression storage amenities for nuclear squander are a great deal additional grimly named. These “mausoleums” will have to keep men and women absent for tens of hundreds of decades, at least.

17. How to alert future generations to the mortal menace of prolonged-lived radioactivity continues to be a challenge. Ideas incorporate erecting huge monuments topped with spikes and genetically engineering cats to improve color in reaction to radioisotopes — or just leaving term of the danger in the world’s libraries.

eighteen. The oldest library in the entire world, at St. Catherine’s Monastery on Mount Sinai in Egypt, has been run consistently considering the fact that its founding in the late sixth century.

19. And writing supplies like papyrus do have extraordinary longevity: Egyptian shipping and delivery data related to the building of the pyramids have endured for almost four,600 decades. 

20. On the other hand, those people Egyptian shipping and delivery data weren’t uncovered right until 2013. Probably we need to keep performing on the color-transforming cats.  


Jonathon Keats is a contributing editor to Uncover. His most latest book is You Belong to the Universe: Buckminster Fuller and the Long term.