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The Mathematics of the Lifespan of Species

samzenpus posted about a year and a half ago | from the turn-out-the-lights dept.

Science 158

skade88 writes "NPR is reporting on a study in which the author claims to have found the formula to predict the average life span of members of a species. It does not apply to specific individuals of that species, only to the average life span of members of the species as a whole. From the article: 'It's hard to believe that creatures as different as jellyfish and cheetahs, daisies and bats, are governed by the same mathematical logic, but size seems to predict lifespan. The formula seems to be nature's way to preserve larger creatures who need time to grow and prosper, and it not only operates in all living things, but even in the cells of living things. It tells animals for example, that there's a universal limit to life, that though they come in different sizes, they have roughly a billion and a half heart beats; elephant hearts beat slowly, hummingbird hearts beat fast, but when your count is up, you are over.'"

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Ancient news (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42677455)

I learned this decades ago.

Re:Ancient news (2)

michelcolman (1208008) | about a year and a half ago | (#42678535)

Exactly, and if I recall correctly (from at least a decade ago, if not more), it does not apply to humans.

Re:Ancient news (2)

stranger_to_himself (1132241) | about a year and a half ago | (#42678955)

Exactly, and if I recall correctly (from at least a decade ago, if not more), it does not apply to humans.

Humans get old which is extremely unusual in nature.

Re:Ancient news (1)

cupantae (1304123) | about a year and a half ago | (#42679271)

It seems there's much more than humans that it doesn't apply to. Check out the plot of Mortality Rate to Mass at the end of the article. The "researchers" might see a linear relationship, but I certainly don't. There's so much variation that the statement that "size seems to predict lifespan" is only true in the most anecdotal sense.

Very poor article.

Re:Ancient news (2)

ggpauly (263626) | about a year and a half ago | (#42679335)

This was taught at Frances Slocum elementary school (Fort Wayne, IN, USA) circa 1968.

That's why I don't exercise (5, Funny)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year and a half ago | (#42677457)

Keep my heart rate to a minimum...

Re:That's why I don't exercise (2)

darkfeline (1890882) | about a year and a half ago | (#42677517)

Ditto.

But in all seriousness, even the summary says that this only applies to a species as a whole. Even if there was a hard quota on how many heartbeats you had, there's no point saving up your heartbeats not exercising just to die early from a heart attack.

Re:That's why I don't exercise (2)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about a year and a half ago | (#42678027)

But I am surprised the article does not mention even one of the obvious -- one might even say glaring -- exceptions.

Take various species of tortoise for example. They can easily live to be 150 years old, yet weigh (many of them anyway) far less than a human. Same with many species of parrot.

Then there's the hydra [wikipedia.org] ... 100 million years old or so, in its current form (just a wild guess... it could be a billion but I don't think that's likely), but every hydra is budded from its "parent"... so each individual hydra is ONE single organism that has lived for millions of years. (They don't die of old age, either.)

I understand that they are talking about trends, but they should not use such superlatives as "every" and "all". There are exceptions all around us.

Re:That's why I don't exercise (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42679575)

Hydras reproduce through both sexual and asexual means, granted it uses the asexual ones far more frequently.

Re:That's why I don't exercise (3, Interesting)

Spugglefink (1041680) | about a year and a half ago | (#42678927)

Even if there was a hard quota on how many heartbeats you had, there's no point saving up your heartbeats not exercising just to die early from a heart attack.

Actually, I don't exercise for crap, I'm overweight, and my resting heart rate is riduclously high. Sure, exercise would get my heart rate up in the short term, but if I had a stronger, more athletic heart, built through exercising, I would conserve heartbeats over time. Mom was very athletic, and her resting heart rate was something scary slow.

Of course Mom died when she was 55. Oops.

Re:That's why I don't exercise (4, Insightful)

haruchai (17472) | about a year and a half ago | (#42677709)

Funny but I don' t think the math adds up. Let's look at a 50 year period and assume a constant heart rate and skip pesky leap

So for Joe Average, that's 26,280,000 minutes at 70 bpm or 1,839,600,000 beats.

Now in that time Frankie Fitness works out 5 hrs per week for 50 yrs at a heart rate of 150 beats per minute so 780,000 min or 117,000,000 beats during exercise.

Assume that drops his average heart rate to 60 bpm so over 50 years, the number of heartbeats outside when not exercising would be 60 * 25,500,000 = 1,530,000,000.
So Frankie's total heartbeats over 50 years would be 1,647,000,000 so he saves close to 200 million beats over Joe Average.

apropos Redd Foxx quote (5, Insightful)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | about a year and a half ago | (#42677909)

"Health nuts are going to feel stupid someday, lying in hospitals dying of nothing."

Re:That's why I don't exercise (5, Insightful)

PmanAce (1679902) | about a year and a half ago | (#42678117)

Wrong. By exercising one can lower their heart rate. Around 72 is generally considered the number of beats per minute. From daily exercise I lowered mine to low 50s bpm. What is the difference of the number of beats a year for example between both resting heart rates? Around 11 037 600 beats, looks quite staggering.

This is not new (5, Informative)

mbone (558574) | about a year and a half ago | (#42677465)

Isaac Asimov wrote an essay about this a long time ago (in the 1960's IIRC), and I doubt the idea originated with him.

I believe Asimov was talking about 3 billion heartbeats or so as the limit; 1.5 billion heartbeats is only about 60 years for a human, and we tend to live longer than that under good conditions.

Re:This is not new (3, Interesting)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | about a year and a half ago | (#42677563)

Aye... I remember reading that article. Perhaps in an Analog.. Perhaps in an IASFM.

Amazing that these scientists are now "discovering" this "new" fact.

Wonder how much knowledge we lose and have to rediscover.

Re:This is not new (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42677673)

True, the essay was published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and the title was "The Slowly Moving Finger".

Re:This is not new (3, Insightful)

rnturn (11092) | about a year and a half ago | (#42677579)

Or correct.

1.5 billion heartbeats for someone who has a constant heart rate of 72bpm would, according to this theory, only have them living for 39.6 years. So color me skeptical.

And frankly, if my heart rate never deviated from 72bpm, I can't say I'd call that living. I'm still going out for a run tomorrow morning.

Re:This is not new (4, Interesting)

retchdog (1319261) | about a year and a half ago | (#42677719)

the summary says that the result is valid for species, not individuals. even that is wrong; it's not exactly valid for every species; the result is actually that there is a significant power-law trend across species which is that the mortality rate and birth rate both scale approximately as -0.25*(dry mass) on a log-log scale. however there is also significant variation from the log-log line-of-best-fit; the r^2 is around 0.8, though i don't care enough to read exactly how they designed the study. http://www.pnas.org/content/104/40/15777.full [pnas.org]

humans have, of course, cheated death to some extent, so we're outliers, though it is worth noting that prehistoric humans had a max. lifespan of around 40 years...

this is an old result for animal species; the `result' here is that they checked the extrapolated fit for ~700 plant species and validated it in that domain. scientists generally make small extensions or validate previous conjectures; since the public doesn't understand what they're building from, the media has to present the history as the novelty. it's kind of funny, really.

i remember reading a paper (from sante fe institute, of course) ~20 years ago or so which tried to define a `generalized heartbeat' for cities and nation-states to see if the scaling law would extrapolate. of course, the problem is you can define such a thing however you want.

Re:This is not new (1)

kinnell (607819) | about a year and a half ago | (#42679175)

humans have, of course, cheated death to some extent, so we're outliers, though it is worth noting that prehistoric humans had a max. lifespan of around 40 years...

No. prehistoric humans had a life expectancy of 25-40 years [wikipedia.org] . Life expectancy is the mean age at death not the maximum lifespan. Given that we are genetically identical to prehistoric man, I think it's fair to say that they're maximum lifespan was somewhere between 100 and 120 years just like us.

Re:This is not new (1)

dcw3 (649211) | about a year and a half ago | (#42679443)

Take away healthcare, and everything humans have learned to extend their lives, then come back and tell us if you're still skeptical.

Re:This is not new (3, Interesting)

Empiric (675968) | about a year and a half ago | (#42677601)

The 1960's was "a long time ago"? We have a much more accurate value than Asimov's in Genesis 6:3, applying to all the billions of human lives since, and verifiably correct to the two significant digits of precision indicated.

In terms of specific methodology to arrive at that figure, though, I cannot say beyond the obvious. ;)

Re:This is not new (1)

wvmarle (1070040) | about a year and a half ago | (#42677657)

This is not new indeed.

And humans are a known exeption to this rule, living about twice as long as this formula would predict: at about 60 heartbeats per minute there are over 2.5 bln in the average life span of about 80 years for humans.

Re:This is not new (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about a year and a half ago | (#42677675)

I think the new thing he has there is that he added plants to the equation. I don't know how he counts heartbeats for plants, but apparently they love us all.

So if I want to increase my lifespan (1, Funny)

exploder (196936) | about a year and a half ago | (#42677483)

...I should gain a couple hundred pounds?

Re:So if I want to increase my lifespan (1)

UltraZelda64 (2309504) | about a year and a half ago | (#42677707)

And avoid doing "healthy" things that make your heart beat more and faster, like walking.

Dunbar in Catch-22 (4, Funny)

retroworks (652802) | about a year and a half ago | (#42677499)

Time passes faster when you're having fun. If we have a limited number of heartbeats, the trick is to stay as miserable as possible, so that the time will pass more slowly.

Re:Dunbar in Catch-22 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42677611)

Keep electing liberal democrats and life will seem endless

Re:Dunbar in Catch-22 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42679183)

Let me guess - you're of the 'moneyed' class, right?

Re:Dunbar in Catch-22 (1)

alvinrod (889928) | about a year and a half ago | (#42677619)

Should probably get high all of the time too, as apparently it makes time seem to pass more slowly. [youtube.com] Then again I don't know how miserable you can be when you're always stoned, so it probably offsets any gains.

Re:Dunbar in Catch-22 (1)

RedHackTea (2779623) | about a year and a half ago | (#42677665)

If we have a limited number of heartbeats, the trick is to stay as miserable as possible, so that the time will pass more slowly.

I knew pr0n would be the death of me!

Re:Dunbar in Catch-22 (1)

c0lo (1497653) | about a year and a half ago | (#42677847)

True - I can imagine nothing more boring that to live on the Arctic ocean floor for 500+ [wikipedia.org] years.

Re:Dunbar in Catch-22 (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | about a year and a half ago | (#42677889)

That's not a viable strategy because your heart beat frequency also goes up if you are angry on something. Indeed, about every emotion increases it. What you therefore would need is an emotionless life.

Re:Dunbar in Catch-22 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42678929)

Time passes faster when you're having fun. If we have a limited number of heartbeats, the trick is to stay as miserable as possible, so that the time will pass more slowly.

Bah.

Married men don't live longer.

It just seems that way.

Re:Dunbar in Catch-22 (1)

Grayhand (2610049) | about a year and a half ago | (#42679245)

Time passes faster when you're having fun. If we have a limited number of heartbeats, the trick is to stay as miserable as possible, so that the time will pass more slowly.

I think the old joke was if the doctor tells you that you have a year to live move to Montana and marry a Jewish girl. It'll seem like forever and you'll be glad be glad when you finally die.

Comment (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42677507)

I thought it was a billion breaths and 4 billion heart beats.

But this is old news. It is old news. 5 or 6 years old at least. The heart beat thing.

I haven't read the article, but does he mention the Sun, 10-11 billion or so year expected lifespan, and the billion or so solar cycles of 11.1 years?

Re:Comment (1)

Austerity Empowers (669817) | about a year and a half ago | (#42677607)

That's ok, nobody did, because TFA is actually by an artist referencing that old paper, but he's really showing time lapses of dying plants. I been trolled.

"Formula" = Log-Log Regression (5, Insightful)

Irate Engineer (2814313) | about a year and a half ago | (#42677513)

He plots lifetime in days to entity mass in grams on a log-log plot and slaps a line on it. Note that some of the scatter in the vertical axis is up to 3 *orders of magnitude*. Had this been plotted on linear scale it would have looked like Jackson Pollock sneezed on the page. All that can be extracted is that big critters tend to live longer than small critters. So what is new here?

Re:"Formula" = Log-Log Regression (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42677943)

Bingo! I kept thinking about the bristlecone pine & tortoises while reading this. Both huge exceptions to this sort of thinking.

Re:"Formula" = Log-Log Regression (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42678755)

It is ridiculous to fit a straight line in such a scattered log-log plot.

Cosma Shalizi: "So You Think You Have a Power Law - Well Isn't That Special?"
http://vserver1.cscs.lsa.umich.edu/~crshalizi/weblog/491.html [umich.edu]

The Mathematics of Quantum Neutrino Fields (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42677541)

or was it Wonton Burrito Meals...I think I read the title wrong again.

Re:The Mathematics of Quantum Neutrino Fields (1)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | about a year and a half ago | (#42677555)

I don't know how to teach - I'm a professor!

Parrots (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42677545)

What about parrots that live 50 or 60 years? What makes them different than other birds their size?

Re:Parrots (1)

lxs (131946) | about a year and a half ago | (#42678531)

Everyone knows that the good are the first to go and parrots are minions of pure unadulterated evil.

Daisies? (1)

clarkn0va (807617) | about a year and a half ago | (#42677551)

How does one quantify the heartbeat of a daisy?

Re:Daisies? (1)

clarkn0va (807617) | about a year and a half ago | (#42677559)

Yeah, yeah. I know. RTA. :(

Re:Daisies? (2)

smallfries (601545) | about a year and a half ago | (#42677577)

The period is directly proportional to the loveliness of a summer's day, perchance?

Re:Daisies? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42677589)

That's a good line.

similar to the argument for creation (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42677587)

There must be a creator since it is extremely unlikely we'd exist without hundreds of details being just so (ratio of proton to electron mass, EM vs gravity etc).

The counter is we wouldn't be here to ask the question in all the possible universes where we couldn't exist. Similarly: big animals need lots of resources. Since volume grows with the cube of the size but area with the square getting stuff into a bigger animal takes longer proportionate wise. If big animals didn't live longer they wouldn't exist because they wouldn't be around long enough to get big in the first place (you can't grow an elephant in the lifespan of a fruit fly so the fact that elephants exist implies they must live longer).

Re:similar to the argument for creation (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42677895)

The counter is we wouldn't be here to ask the question in all the possible universes where we couldn't exist.

Another counter is that people shouldn't make up random bullshit theories and claim they're true just because they can't think of another explanation.

Just proves (2, Funny)

zixxt (1547061) | about a year and a half ago | (#42677677)

All life was designed by God.

Re:Just proves (2)

sidevans (66118) | about a year and a half ago | (#42677751)

All life was designed by God.

Yes... it's a miracle, but how the fuck do magnets work?

Re:Just proves (1)

jersacct (1261566) | about a year and a half ago | (#42677877)

Mod parent +1 funny. Classic.

Re: Just proves (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42677999)

Hilarious. +1 for ICP reference.

Re:Just proves (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42677961)

All life was designed by God.

Yes... it's a miracle, but how the fuck do magnets work?

They don't, you do. Now... back to work.

Re:Just proves (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42678017)

And who's to say just how happy he is that we squander so much of the beauty, interconnectedness and wonder of it all. Perhaps that's why he comes back periodically to torment us with earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, tornadoes, floods, pestilence and famine. The stock market failures, wars, torture, crusades, jihads, airplane & automobile structural failures as well as the inorganic pollution caused cancers, predatory lending, murders, rage and deceit he leaves to us.

It's so irreversibly complex!

Hat's off to God!

Species (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42677703)

I wonder how this applies to a species if an entire species is looked at as a multicellular organism and the timespan of a species existance to extinction.

My first thought against this would be we interact with other species and they effect us in ways that would throw numbers off greatly.

My response to that thought is, what if we applied it to all species on the planet, and looked at the planet as an organism.

What would that predict?

This is why I went back to school (1)

Ambassador Kosh (18352) | about a year and a half ago | (#42677721)

I don't accept that we should see this as inevitable. We are learning a lot very rapidly about nanotech and biotech and some of those advances are in the fields of things like regeneration, cures, and life extension.

I fully intend to work on developing this technology and trying to fix this problem. Just because our DNA is built this way doesn't mean that we can change it.

Bioengineering and Nanoengineering are going to be some of the coolest things to do for a long time to come.

Re:This is why I went back to school (1)

c0lo (1497653) | about a year and a half ago | (#42677997)

Just because our DNA is built this way doesn't mean that we can change it.

Bioengineering and Nanoengineering are going to be some of the coolest things to do for a long time to come.

True, brother, but not for you... not for you.

It almost can feel some slightly trembling of your hands as you fingers miss some key while typing, a certain lack of attention and all that... signs of age catching up with you; you can no more change that DNA of yours, you simply don't have enough time to do significant discoveries... and posting on /. won't give you more of that precious time.

Re:This is why I went back to school (1)

SpaceLifeForm (228190) | about a year and a half ago | (#42678683)

Just because GPP has a 5 digit ID number does not mean you have to be an asshole. FOAD.

Re:This is why I went back to school (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42678757)

Just because GPP has a 5 digit ID number does not mean you have to be an asshole. FOAD.

U scared sonny? Here's an advice from personal experience: enjoy it while you can, after a while the scare will come to pass and certainty installs itself... it's not likely you are going to live forever.

Relax (3, Funny)

quantaman (517394) | about a year and a half ago | (#42677725)

That thumping sound you hear in your chest?

That's your life beating away.

If that sounds worrying you shouldn't worry, the worrying only just makes your heart beat faster and brings your inevitable demise that much closer.

That worry is very dangerous, even if you stop now you've already shortened your lifespan, and for every second you worry longer you're losing more and more of your life. This worry and stress is literally killing you and it won't stop unless you stop getting stressed out.

Just some friendly advice.

Re:Relax (2)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about a year and a half ago | (#42677947)

That thumping sound you hear in your chest?

That's your life beating away.

If that sounds worrying you shouldn't worry, the worrying only just makes your heart beat faster and brings your inevitable demise that much closer....

Is your Heart attacking you? Well tell it to Beat It!
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Re:Relax (1)

blackest_k (761565) | about a year and a half ago | (#42678639)

Interesting, this comment lead me to this article
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/20/health/20docs.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0 [nytimes.com]
and dick cheney who had a HeartMate II device fitted in 2010 and lived without a pulse for 15 months , he now has had a heart transplant and might get another 10 years out of that.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dick_Cheney#Health_problems [wikipedia.org]

He had his first heart attack in 1978 at the age of 37 followed by others in 84, 88, 2000 and 2010 he will have his 72nd birthday in about 6 days time.

I personally had a heart attack a few years ago and at the time learned a few interesting statistics.
such as 30% of people having a first heart attack die from it , for a 2nd heart attack it is 50% and the death rate is about 50% after 10 years in this source. (at the time i found 6 and 8 years for 50%)
http://www.healthguidance.org/entry/6324/1/Cardiovascular-Disease-The-Facts.html [healthguidance.org]

Another interesting bit was your first year was a 25% chance of death followed by a 3% chance for the following years (without a heart attack it's about 1.5% chance of death in general). Rapid treatment is essential your heart can survive 20-30 minutes without the blood flow to the heart muscle after that the muscle starts to die and if you live you will have scar tissue where the muscle died. I have a heart which is 55% efficient a healthy heart is 60% efficient so i am still relatively unharmed. Maybe the most bizarre question was being asked if i wanted to be injected with heprin, it should clear the blockage but there is a 5% chance of a bleed on the brain. Given the choice of 5% risk or the unspoken alternative (~100% chance of death) i took the risk.

Being diabetic I might have avoided heart attack with a simple dose of 75mg of asprin daily, I had been diagnosed diabetic 2 years previously. You are what you eat, most processed food is pretty poor for your body and most profitable for the supermarkets. It's probably better to buy raw ingredients meat and vegetables and fruit. Farm produce is better for you than factory produce. Exercise helps, a healthy body weight helps.

Dick Cheney is an interesting case he may well live into his eighties with his new heart, thou in 1978 Stents were a new technology (introduced in 1975 I believe) so he has been incredibly lucky in that the technology has developed at a rate fast enough to be in place to keep him from dying.

Re:Relax (1)

andrewbaldwin (442273) | about a year and a half ago | (#42679003)

recalls my Dad's advice to me...

You'll die if you worry but you'll die if you don't - so why worry? enjoy yourself while you can

Doesn't apply to stars. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42677811)

Larger stars use up their fuel faster than smaller stars such as our sun. So much for fractal self-similarity being the "geometry of nature."

Dinosaurs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42677857)

Does that mean the really big dinosaurs lived a few hundred years? Wait, their day was notionally anywhere from 6-18 hours, nowhere near today's 24 hour days. Maybe dinosaurs lived thousands of years.

Exercise (5, Informative)

eric31415927 (861917) | about a year and a half ago | (#42677871)

I came up with a similar theory years ago as an excuse not to exercise, for exercising increases one's heart rate. I concluded that exercise would therefore shorten my life. My girlfriend at the time didn't buy my logic. As a step aerobics instructor and science graduate student, she assured me that exercising only temporarily increases one's heart rate and that people who exercise regularly have slower heart rates during the non-exercising parts of their lives. I hate it when people use my own logic against me.

Re:Exercise (1)

eulernet (1132389) | about a year and a half ago | (#42678527)

She is wrong.
It's true that if you train your body to sustain strong effort, the every day life will require a lot less effort and your heart will require less effort.
But aerobics is very bad for the heart, because if you have some hidden health problem, it will expose it.

Yogis also believe that the human body has a limited number of heart-beats, so they try to slow down its beating.
Their theory is that you can become immortal when you stop your heart (this is done by control of the breathing).
I also heard about some deaths because of these techniques.

In general, relaxation reduces the heart-beats during the your daily life, so I strongly recommend any kind of relaxation instead of aerobics.

Re:Exercise (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42678643)

No you are wrong. People who exrecise have on average healthier hearts. However in individuals with heartproblems it could be detrimental of course.

Re:Exercise (1)

Tagged_84 (1144281) | about a year and a half ago | (#42678559)

Yeah my resting heart rate is 45 beats per minute thanks to my love of running and some very good genes! At the computer right now it's reporting 50 on my iPhone, so it more likely hovers around that during the day.

Re:Exercise (3, Funny)

SpaceLifeForm (228190) | about a year and a half ago | (#42678659)

There is that Reality Distortion Field again.
On my Android phone, it says your heart rate is 56 beats a minute.

Re:Exercise (1)

Tagged_84 (1144281) | about a year and a half ago | (#42678745)

haha, I've had it professional measured and can even count it myself. Also it's called exercise, you only have yourself to blame!

Re:Exercise (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42678609)

There's something fishy about this story... you're on slashdot with a relatively low UID and claim to have had a girlfriend (red flag already) who was not ony intelligent but also physically fit (giant communist red flag on the moon)? What was wrong with her? Seriously. Fess up.

Re:Exercise (1)

roman_mir (125474) | about a year and a half ago | (#42679049)

She is a witch, did you burn her?

Wrong wrong wrong (5, Interesting)

EmperorOfCanada (1332175) | about a year and a half ago | (#42677875)

There are so many exceptions to this "rule" that it is at best an interesting pattern. There are big turtles that live great long lives and big turtles that don't with little turtles being all over the place as well. There are birds of all kinds of sizes with small birds that live 80 years and big birds that live under 20. Some bacteria seem to be nearly immortal and others live days. Within dogs the big ones hardly outlast green bananas while the little ratty ones go on for decades. Poplar trees grow huge and die fast, oaks go on and on but some smaller trees are thousands of years old.

Even humming birds live a few years at crazy heartbeats as high as 1200 bpm (look it up if you don't buy that mind blowing number) yet other bigger birds with much slower heart beats live for the same length of time. So it isn't size or heartbeats.

If I had to suspect anything lifespan will be an evolutionary advantage like anything else. If you are surrounded by ever changing dangers a short fast life-cycle is probably best. But if you are fairly safe in steady environment a long life is probably safer. Turtles have slow metabolisms which allow them to survive long periods without food and are fairly safe from predictors so they don't have to worry about adapting too much. Rabbits are basically the forest's McNuggets so they need to continuously adapt in numbers and probably other things such as coloring; hence a fast short life cycle. We have created civilization where we are nearly 100% safe from predators and with things like food storage are not so buffeted by a changing nature; so we are getting longer an longer lived.

Re:Wrong wrong wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42678155)

Yes, you've got to be very careful of these predictors. They have a killing habit [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Wrong wrong wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42678351)

I couldn't of phrased this better. Parrots live about as long as elephants which is close to the life span of a human. However dogs cats and lions clock in at 12 to 20. Size and heart rate do not seem to matter. I would be more likely to find a link to birth rate then size and heart beat

Re:Wrong wrong wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42678843)

I know someone who smokes who lived to be a 100. Therefore, there can be no relationship between smoking and lifespan. Or maybe that's not how it works.

Re:Wrong wrong wrong (1)

Strandman (583695) | about a year and a half ago | (#42678603)

I recommend reading the book Oxygen: The molecule that made the world [amazon.com] for a thorough understanding of ageing.

Among other things it explains the heartbeats of birds vs "finite number of heartbeats". We all have mechanisms for DNA damage repair. In humans, if I remember correctly, there are 3 such mechanisms, but in birds there are 4. This explains why birds live longer, even though they have more heartbeats pr. minute (i.e. oxygen consumption and DNA damage).

Stats for average member of a species (1)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | about a year and a half ago | (#42677921)

So, for your particular species, your best bet would be to select your parents for longevity. If you are into that sort of thing.

Errorprone research (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42677929)

The trick will be to transfer our consciousness to a new machine/body.
But the selection of species was weak.
Giant turtles anyone?

Re:Errorprone research (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42678253)

I want to be an Adrienne Barbeaubot!

Regression Formula (1)

warewolfsmith (196722) | about a year and a half ago | (#42677953)

So pedometers should count backwards....

2038 (5, Funny)

Tablizer (95088) | about a year and a half ago | (#42678073)

"roughly a billion and a half heart beats...when your count is up, you are over.'"

But I have a Unix heart; the counter flips over to zero in 2038.

Lets be accurate, it is 19 days later (1)

SpaceLifeForm (228190) | about a year and a half ago | (#42678699)

The furthest time that can be represented this way is 03:14:07 UTC on Tuesday, 19 January 2038.

Re:2038 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42678835)

time_t is often defined as a signed 32-bit integer. So it'd probably flip to negative.

Re:2038 (1)

Chemisor (97276) | about a year and a half ago | (#42679451)

It's official: 2038 is the year of the singularity.

telomeres vs body mass (1)

ktilford (675826) | about a year and a half ago | (#42678259)

Someone never heard of telomeres. Lobsters aren't very heavy but might be nearly immortal based upon their telomeres. Lobsters die from predation, not old age, 200+ year-old lobsters are documented. Telomeres are better than body mass for predicting average lifespan.

Re:telomeres vs body mass (1)

SpaceLifeForm (228190) | about a year and a half ago | (#42678709)

Yep, it is all about the telomeres, which is by design. If you happen to live long enough, the telomeres will be gone, and genetic damage will definitely take over, and you will eventually die of cancer.

You are designed to die, so that you do not figure out what is going on.

You are food.

Brain to body mass (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42678275)

Looking at brain mass might make this more predictable.
http://www.pereanu.com/comic/brain-size/ [pereanu.com]

Large is dead (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42678595)

It is not the goal of evolution to produce beings with the largest possible lifespan. It's not even a goal, it is a mechanism which selects for the fittest *species*. A species, not a being.

What one gains in size and lifespan, one looses in the ability to adapt as a species. Short lived small and numerous beings reproduce frequently and adapt and improve their genetic code much faster than e.g. large whales.

Large animals may seem to be the kings of the animal world but they are the dead end of evolution. They all will die out and will be replaced by another large species which descends from currently small species.

Humans will be replaced by rats. Not because of inteligence but because of a faster genetic adaptation on a cellular level.

Re:Large is dead (1)

The Shootist (324679) | about a year and a half ago | (#42679445)

Which is why some Humpback whales may be 200 years old.

Outliers (1)

Rudisaurus (675580) | about a year and a half ago | (#42678605)

Parrots

Galapagos Tortoises

Dogs (small ones tend to outlive larger ones by a factor sometimes approaching 2)

(and those are just the 1st 3 examples which spring to mind in 30 s)

Human's lifespan = Reproduction dependent (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42678811)

Common link in 'remarkably old' humans is that they've not had children (male & female) - As though the body knows when it has successfully reproduced and replaced itself.

The real news. (1)

bob_jordan (39836) | about a year and a half ago | (#42679123)

"creatures as different as jellyfish and cheetahs, daisies and bats"

Daisies have heartbeats!

Bob.

Read the blog comments (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42679319)

Read the blog comments after the article. They have good and valid criticism of the article.

What about Sea Anemones? (1)

minogully (1855264) | about a year and a half ago | (#42679361)

Apparently, scientists think that they don't die of old age.

I saw this first on a documentary, but here's a wikipedia [wikipedia.org] article on it.

So, unless these guys are supposed to grow bigger-than-blue-whale big but they just do it super slowly, and these Anemone scientists were wrong about the 'forever' thing, but instead it's just 'a really, really long time', wouldn't this conflict with their theory?

Heartless? (1)

dcw3 (649211) | about a year and a half ago | (#42679471)

What about all these politicians? Are we stuck with them forever?

Before anyone goes off on left vs. right being more heartless...it's a joke, get over yourself.

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