There is no lapel ribbon pin, charity run, or celebrity spokesperson for humanitys number one killer: old age. But according to Pulitzer Prize-winning science writer Jonathan Weiner, gerontology is an active research field, albeit one with a long history of eccentrics. In Long for This World, he catalogs the search for immortality from the ancient Greeks to todays molecular biologists. Interestingly, the crusade for longevity is often linked to sexual potency. Weiner reports that Victorian men sought the fountain of youth by replacing their own testicles with those of apes.
Immortality almost seems within reach when Weiner reveals that for every day we live, our life expectancy goes up by five hours. Yet with our sagging skin and crumbling bag-of-bones, our bodies tick on to eventual decay. Throughout his survey, its impossible to ignore that its mostly middle-aged men who are delirious to live forever. No one asked Jeanne Calment, the oldest person on record, who died at 122 years old, whether she could take 122 more years, let alone infinity.
Wed., July 14, 8 p.m., 2010