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Medicine Science

Why People Don't Live Past 114 916

kkleiner writes "Average life expectancy has nearly doubled in developed countries over the 20th century. But a puzzling part to the equation has emerged. While humans are in fact living longer lives on average, the oldest age that the oldest people reach seems to be stubbornly and oddly precisely cemented right at 114. What will it take for humans to live beyond this limit?"
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Why People Don't Live Past 114

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  • A statistical blimp (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bjourne ( 1034822 ) on Thursday February 16, 2012 @10:00AM (#39058911) Homepage Journal
    Here's the gist of the article, and also an explanation of why it isn't really interesting at all:

    “This is a fascinating phenomenon and nobody has really much idea of what’s going on. What we do know is that it’s absolutely essential to not jump to conclusions about what’s going on. Time and time again over the decades past demographers have been brutally misled by short-term phenomena, by statistics gathered only over a few years. Blips happen for all manner of impenetrable reasons. In this case we’re talking about people born in a small segment of time, around 1900, and most of them born in particular countries and going through certain types of life they might not have gone through had they been born 20 years previously or 20 years later. There are many factors called ‘cohort effects’ that can cause early life phenomena to have an influence on longevity.” Bottom line: don’t believe the hype.

  • by slidersv ( 972720 ) on Thursday February 16, 2012 @10:02AM (#39058939) Journal live beyond that limit? Cryogenic freezing, I guess. But seriously, the problem is not the ability, but purpose. It's one thing to be able to survive into 100+, and completely another to enjoy your time on this planet. If you survive for 150 years, but enjoy the first 50 and suffer for the next 100, that sounds more like a Doom episode: Hell on Earth. All people are measuring when it comes to age is heart beating. But what they should be focusing on are different questions. Like: "do you enjoy getting up in the morning?" "how fast can you read?" "and write?" "do you hear me well enough?" "can you describe me what you see outside the window?" Can people over 80 on this forum add to this discussion, if they are interested to live another 34 years, until the "current limit" of 114?
  • Oblig. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Scutter ( 18425 ) on Thursday February 16, 2012 @10:03AM (#39058951) Journal

    Tyrell: The facts of life... to make an alteration in the evolvement of an organic life system is fatal. A coding sequence cannot be revised once it's been established.
    Batty: Why not?
    Tyrell: Because by the second day of incubation, any cells that have undergone reversion mutation give rise to revertant colonies, like rats leaving a sinking ship; then the ship... sinks.
    Batty: What about EMS-3 recombination?
    Tyrell: We've already tried it - ethyl, methane, sulfinate as an alkylating agent and potent mutagen; it created a virus so lethal the subject was dead before it even left the table.
    Batty: Then a repressor protein, that would block the operating cells.
    Tyrell: Wouldn't obstruct replication; but it does give rise to an error in replication, so that the newly formed DNA strand carries with it a mutation - and you've got a virus again... but this, all of this is academic. You were made as well as we could make you.
    Batty: But not to last.

  • by boef ( 452862 ) on Thursday February 16, 2012 @10:06AM (#39058987)
    TFA does not state you get suddenly croak when you hit 114.. That number is more when the odds change.. and the question is why.
    “the odds of a person dying in any given year between the ages of 110 and 113 appear to be about one in two. But by age 114, the chances jump to more like two in three.”
  • by gmuslera ( 3436 ) * on Thursday February 16, 2012 @10:18AM (#39059113) Homepage Journal
    The calendar was lunar, so each "year" was 29 days. Back in those times, iiving up to 80 was something to note.
  • Re:Genesis 6:3 (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Omegawar ( 1314051 ) on Thursday February 16, 2012 @10:28AM (#39059265)
    Well I wanted to die before I was 70. But I have a new goal. Live to 120 and a day by any means necessary.
  • Epiphenomena (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nfk ( 570056 ) on Thursday February 16, 2012 @10:31AM (#39059293)

    I haven't read the article (shock), so I'm not arguing with those who say this isn't interesting, but it reminded me of Douglas Hofstadter in GEB:

    "I was talking one day with two systems programmers for the computer I was using. They mentioned that the operating system seemed to be able to handle up to about thirty-five users with great comfort, but at about thirty-five users or so, the response time all of a sudden shot up, getting so slow that you might as well log off and go home and wait until later. Jokingly I said, "Well, that's simple to fix -- just find the place in the operating system where the number '35' is stored, and change it to '60'!" Everyone laughed. The point is, of course, that there is no such place. Where, then, does the critical number -- 35 users -- come from? The answer is: It is a visible consequence of the overall system organization -- an "epiphenomenon".

    Similarly, you might ask about a sprinter, "Where is the '9.3' stored, that makes him be able to run 100 yards in 9.3 seconds?" Obviously, it is not stored anywhere. His time is a result of how he is built, what his reaction time is, a million factors all interacting when he runs. The time is quite reproducible, but it is not stored in his body anywhere. It is spread around among all the cells of his body and only manifests itself in the act of the sprint itself.

    Epiphenomena abound. In the game of "Go", there is the feature that "two eyes live". It is not built into the rules, but it is a consequence of the rules. In the human brain, there is gullibility. How gullible are you? Is your gullibility located in some "gullibility center" in your brain? Could a neurosurgeon reach in and perform some delicate operation to lower your gullibility, otherwise leaving you alone? If you believe this, you are pretty gullible, and should perhaps consider such an operation".

  • by meburke ( 736645 ) on Thursday February 16, 2012 @10:32AM (#39059327)

    I just spent a couple of years working at a "retirement community" where I was as old as the residents. There were a couple of very healthy residents, such as a Vietnamese doctor (76) who got up every morning and did Tai Chi and an 87-year-old guy who walked two miles around the campus each morning. But most of the residents were rotting away under the burden of a lifetime of bad food and no exercise.

    I don't mind the thought of dying, but I want to die reasonably suddenly after a full, active life. Frank Lloyd Wright was brilliant well into his 80's. I just read something about a biotech entrepreneur who started two major companies while in his 70's and 80's.

    Exercise may be the fountain of youth.

  • Re:Genesis 6:3 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MightyYar ( 622222 ) on Thursday February 16, 2012 @10:33AM (#39059339)

    Considering Jeanne Calment [] lived to be 122, I'd say God needs to update his manual.

  • by lazlo ( 15906 ) on Thursday February 16, 2012 @10:58AM (#39059771) Homepage

    I'd say the answer here is fairly simple, we haven't put much effort into keeping 100+ year olds alive, relative to the amount of effort to keep, for instance, 5 year olds alive. As I understand it, a huge amount of the gains in average life length have come from squeezing the bottom of the graph, not extending the top of it. Here's an interesting, though somewhat morbid, exercise. Go to a very old graveyard and look at the stones on the family plots. You'll often see a family with 12 children, half of whom died in childhood, and the other half lived to their 90's. So in that family the average life length was around 50, but that doesn't mean that a 50 year old should be looking for the grim reaper around the corner, quite the opposite in fact. As I understand it, the life expectancy of a 25-year old has been fairly stable for a fairly long time. Once you've survived the fragility of youth and the stupidity of adolescence, the following decades are a cake-walk, morbidity-wise.

  • Re:Genesis 6:3 (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Jerslan ( 1088525 ) * on Thursday February 16, 2012 @11:00AM (#39059785)

    His days shall be an hundred and twenty years. - "His days" are the days of man, not the individual, but the race, with whom the Lord still strives. Hence, they refer to the duration, not of the life of an individual, but of the existence of the race. From this we learn that the narrative here reverts to a point of time before the birth of Shem, Ham, and Japheth, recorded in the close of the preceding passage as there were only a hundred years from their birth to the deluge. This is according to the now well-known method of Scripture, when it has two lines of events to carry on. The former narrative refers to the godly portion of mankind; this to the ungodly remnant.

    Not forever will the Lord strive with man; but his longsuffering will still continue for one hundred and twenty years. Meanwhile he does not leave himself or his clemency without a witness. He sent Noah with the message of warning, who preached by his voice, by his walking with God, and also by his long labor and perseverance in the building of the ark. The doomed race, however, filled up the measure of their iniquity, and when the set number of years was accomplished, the overwhelming flood came.

    Taken in context of Genesis (as a whole) it would seem that "yet his days shall be a hundred and twenty years" means something quite different.
    [Source] []

  • by quintus_horatius ( 1119995 ) on Thursday February 16, 2012 @11:29AM (#39060333) Homepage

    When a lion ate a lamb, what happened to it if death didn't exist?

    The image I have in my head is horrible, just horrible, if things continued to live after being eaten. Or experienced bone-shattering falls, or drownings.

    Are you sure this is a merciful god we're talking about?

  • Job 26:7, 26:10 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tepples ( 727027 ) <> on Thursday February 16, 2012 @11:46AM (#39060639) Homepage Journal

    If you search to the ends of the Earth, I suspect you'll find someone who can elaborate on it.

    It could be argued that the ends of the earth are merely the shore.

    Until then, I suggest Job 26:7.

    You make a good point about this. Some people reading along might not get the Job 26 [] reference. Verse 7 ("hanging the earth upon nothing") suggests that there isn't anything that "holds the earth up", as some cultures' myths about turtles all the way down [] suggest. Likewise, the shape of the curve between day and night is "a circle [...] where light ends in darkness" (26:10), which along with Isaiah 40:21-22 too shows biblical knowledge of the spherical earth [].

  • by tepples ( 727027 ) <> on Thursday February 16, 2012 @11:58AM (#39060853) Homepage Journal

    When a lion ate a lamb, what happened to it if death didn't exist?

    Before the fall, did animals even eat animals?

    Before the flood, which happened 1,656 years later, it was easier to be vegan because there were probably plants with nutritional profiles similar to meat. I'm guessing these plants may have died off in the flood. Notice that God didn't mention eating meat until after the flood: "Every moving animal that is alive may serve as food for YOU. As in the case of green vegetation, I do give it all to YOU. Only flesh with its soul--its blood--YOU must not eat." --Genesis 9:3-4.

  • Re:Obviously... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Tom ( 822 ) on Thursday February 16, 2012 @12:16PM (#39061227) Homepage Journal

    Aside from the god joke, you are right on the money.

    Living organisms haven't evolved to survive very long. Passing on your genes to a couple new specimen has turned out to be the superior strategy. Obviously, since eternal life is pretty much the end of evolution in organisms that don't do runtime-mutations very well.

    Shapeshifters are about the only imaginable species where eternal life could evolve, and even there I'd say the odds are stacked against the trait for reasons of risk-spread.

  • Re:Genesis 6:3 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by M. Baranczak ( 726671 ) on Thursday February 16, 2012 @12:20PM (#39061313)

    And the best part:

    In 1965, aged 90 years and with no heirs, Calment signed a deal to sell her former apartment to lawyer Andre-Francois Raffray, on a contingency contract. Raffray, then aged 47 years, agreed to pay her a monthly sum of 2,500 francs until she died. Raffray ended up paying Calment the equivalent of more than $180,000, which was more than double the apartment's value. After Raffray's death from cancer at the age of 77, in 1995, his widow continued the payments until Calment's death.

  • by HapSlappy_2222 ( 1089149 ) on Thursday February 16, 2012 @12:25PM (#39061393)
    Everything was, apparently, vegetarian in the Garden of Eden. The lions and the lambs were, also apparently, good pals, lounging about all day. This also explains why they didn't fall or drown. And last, God's only merciful sometimes, other times he's wrathful, dopey, sleepy, happy, grumpy, sneezy, bashful, doc, and pissed.

    Funny bit is, back in the days I went to church, there were nutjob answers to everything, and as a kid, that shit was presented as if it made a damn bit of sense (it was grownups telling me, so it HAD to be truth by definition).
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 16, 2012 @03:14PM (#39064055)

    You didn't exist for billions of years in the past, and you seem to have handled that just fine. This 'existence' thing is just a glitch.

"my terminal is a lethal teaspoon." -- Patricia O Tuama