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No. 86: Mar-Apr 1993

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Must we die? the medfly's answer

In the early 1800s, B. Gompertz, an actuary, crafted an empirical law stating that mortality rates increase exponentially with age. Later analyses of census records indicated that the situation was not quite as bad as Gompertz had supposed. Nevertheless, the death rate does increase with age; but we might be able to do something about it. Immortality might be achievable -- if we take recent medfly studies seriously.

"Growing old does not increase your immediate risk of dying -- at least, if you are a fruit fly. The chances of a Mediterranean fruit fly (Ceratitis capitata) dying on a particular day reaches a peak and then declines, according to James Carey of the University of California at Davis and James Vaupel of Duke University, North Carolina, and Odense University in Denmark. Their results contradict the notion that the death rate rises with age in all species."

The upshot is that there may be no genetic limit to an individual medfly's lifetime. And, if these results can be extended to humans, "then medical advances might eventually allow the elderly to live indefinitely."

(Bradley, David; "Who Wants to Live Forever?" New Scientist, p. 16, November 14, 1992.)

From Science Frontiers #86, MAR-APR 1993. 1993-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987