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The Long and the Short of It: The Science of Life Span and Aging Hardcover – October 21, 2013

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

"Potatoes live longer than kings," sighs ecologist Silvertown (An Orchard Invisible) in this whimsical book on aging. Aging is a complex topic, but the author mixes art, science, and humor to brew a highly readable concoction, presenting one aging theory after another. For instance, the "rate of living" hypothesis—live fast, die young—may be defunct, but Silvertown instills awe for the science that tried to make it work: researchers gauged the metabolism of water fleas by simply capturing them in jars, and counting the visible heartbeats in their near-transparent bodies. He also asks why postmenopausal women live longer than men. The latest studies say that in certain periods of human history, grandmothers who stopped reproducing channeled their energies and became useful secondary caregivers. But grandfathers who reproduced their entire lives apparently didn't feel pressured to become otherwise useful—and went "redundant." Indeed, reproduction comes with longevity tradeoffs throughout nature. But the ultimate answer to why we die likely has to do with Nobel Prize–winning immunologist Peter Medawar's casual observation that the aged make diminishing contributions to future generations. Silvertown's engaging tour through this enigmatic science ends wondering whether stem cell research will let us sidestep aging altogether. Who knows? (Nov.)

About the Author

Jonathan Silvertown is professor of ecology at the Open University, Milton Keynes, and the author or editor of a number of books, including, most recently, An Orchard Invisible. He lives in Milton Keynes.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press (October 21, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226757897
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226757896
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #459,168 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Jon Hunt on March 22, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Jonathan Silvertown's compact new book, "The Long and the Short of It", details why things live so long (or not so long as the case may be). It delves into the human, animal and plant world and offers some fascinating information. I knew of course, that women went through menopause but the female members of our closest cousins, the chimpanzees, do not. There's a great chapter called, "Live Fast, Die Young", and his research on why plants live the longest is terrific. Occasionally, the book bogs down in scientific speak, but otherwise this is a fun and informative read.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Nancy F.Neighbors on April 15, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I enjoyed the book, honestly. At my age, I should probably be more interested in longevity, but what I enjoyed most was , first the humor, and second, the image of the train.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Richard T. Thio on March 31, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Well written scientist's book , as much details for a layman to muster, on repeated reading. Highly recommended for and familiarize a mature view of life.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Bud on March 24, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
If you're not depressed about the idea of dying, then this book will fill you with new information. The quotes and anecdotes are enjoyable and worth repeating.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful By BERT ALPERT, M.D. on May 5, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
After just finishing this book I will go to sleep and then, hopefully wake up and go out for my morning run. The only routine change is that when I return home I will begin rereading it! After decades of practicing medicine and having a general interest in science I not only learned a great deal from this book but found it fun to read! Very well written and researched! Can't wait for this author's next book as well (hopefully I'll live long enough).
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