National Geographic May 2013, Part 1

On Beyond 100, by Stephen S. Hall, photographs by Fritz Hoffmann

On Beyond 100 is largely about centenarians (people who live to be 100 or  more) and people who have conditions that might lead then to become centenarians. Two under-100s who are likely to reach highly advanced ages interviewed for this article, for example, are young men with Laron syndrome, which leads to short stature but also to a reduced risk of cancer and type 2 diabetes.

Hall also discusses the idea that caloric restriction leads to longer lives. This seems to work in mice and I actually had a teacher who was experimenting with it.  He did live to be 80, which is a respectable age, but is hardly the age he wanted to reach. And, further studies in caloric restriction show that it’s not so likely to work in primates as it seems to work in mice.

One thing that emerges from these studies is that men tend to have a larger chance of having genetic conditions that correlate highly with longevity. It seems that women centenarians greatly outnumber male ones not because of some inborn advantage, but because they take better care of themselves, including seeking out medical care.

The take-home, for me, at least, is that while science searches for genetic and hormonal pathways to longer life, and I do seem to be in better shape than most of my female ancestors were at my age, it also behooves me to also take care of my body.

Russian Refuge, by Hampton Sides, photographs by Sergey Gorshkov

In this article, we visit a Russian island with the very un-Russian-sounding name of Wrangel Island. Wrangel Island was named for Ferdinand von Wrangel who was born to a German family in Russia. Wrangel attempted to find the island in the 1820s, but failed. This was probably a good thing for his own longevity, since it took another 60 years for someone to actually land there and live to tell the tale. That someone was an American expedition.  Since Americans were the first to land there and return, Wrangel Island was for a time thought of as part of the United States.

In the 1920s, Russia claimed ownership of the island and forcibly moved a colony from Siberia there. Their descendants stayed there until the 1970s, when Wrangel Island became a nature preserve. Perhaps there will be eco-tourism there someday, but that day is still quite a ways off.

In other news, I hope to take Alex downtown tomorrow to check out the Pokéstops and see if the people who played Ingress found any historical markers, public art, etc., that I have missed on my many trips downtown. I may also try to catch a few Pokémon while I’m there, too.

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