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Time of Our Lives: The Science of Human Aging Paperback – January 11, 2001

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (January 11, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195139267
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195139266
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,533,800 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The blurb on the cover of this book may be slightly misleading: "A world authority shows why aging is neither inevitable nor necessary." This is true, for he does show theoretically why there is no need for us to age, i.e. that there is no "death gene" that determines, more or less precisely, our longevity. Just don't expect any miracle cures. From a layman's viewpoint, the evolutionary argument he constructs for the development of aging in species is well elucidated and highly convincing. Aging is not, according to the disposable soma theory expounded here, anything to do with population control or some such crudely deterministic mechanism, but rather the genes making the best of what are, after all, limited energy resources. Our soma cells (anything but the all-important and immortal germ-line cells by which we reproduce) are constantly being replicated, a process that, carried out in any sort of energy-efficient manner, leaves room for error. And these errors are cumulative in effect; though the process is generally remarkably accurate, a faultily constructed cell cannot produce a perfect cell, and eventually our bodies will go wrong with fatal consequences. This mattered less when the conditions of life were such that reaching a state of senescence was relatively rare. But with the change in these conditions found in modern industrialized countries, the effects of this process have taken on a far greater significance. As well as the science (all very accessible to the nonscientist), Tom Kirkwood also engages the reader in an interesting and important discussion of the social and cultural implications of these changed conditions. For the time being, though, as far as any of us are concerned, aging is still inevitable. This book doesn't offer the hope of evading death or even delaying it that significantly, but it does offer up some hope: understanding a process can help to demystify it and dispel fear, and, as Kirkwood illustrates, it can help us to try and intelligently influence the processes at work in our favor. Time of Our Lives is an excellently written popular-science book for anyone who is concerned with the onslaught of the years. --Alisdair Bowles, Amazon.co.uk --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

"Aging is neither inevitable nor necessary," declares British gerontologist Kirkwood in this unorthodox study. According to his hypothesis, which he calls the "disposable soma theory," aging occurs because genes treat organisms as dispensable, investing just enough in body maintenance to enable an organism to get through its life expectancy in the wild. Kirkwood believes that freshwater hydraAtubular pond animals with remarkable regenerative powersAare immortal, a claim made by Argentinean biologist Daniel Martinez in the early 1990s. When it comes to humans, though, Kirkwood concedes that a fountain-of-youth elixir, whether obtained through gene-repair therapy or other means, is far in the future or may never exist. His survey of scientific research into the human aging process reveals clues about the origins of arthritis, memory loss, Alzheimer's disease and immune-system impairment. He dispenses sensible if unsurprising advice on how to slow one's own aging (exercise, eat fewer calories, keep up a healthy sex life, etc.) and examines anti-aging fads, including those involving melatonin, the steroid hormone DHEA and hormone replacement therapy for women. Kirkwood's more provocative ideas include an evolutionary theory to explain menopause and his argument that cancer is an accidental throwback to "immortal" cell-growth mechanisms that were meant to be switched off. He concludes with a weak science fiction scenario in which aging has been conquered and babies are created infrequently to replace individuals who die from accident or suicide. Agent, Felicity Bryan. (Aug.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Turgut Fettah Kosar on April 5, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I recently finished reading this book and found it to be quite interesting and helpful in understanding why and how we all age. I think Tom Kirkwood did a very good job in explaining the biological mechanisms and processes behind aging - at a level comprehensible to the general reader - without oversimplifying or neglecting the necessary subject matter.
The book starts by talking about the social aspects and worldwide (also historical) statistics of human aging. Then the author introduces a theory of aging and gives an overview about the evolutionary, biological, physiological, and biochemical concepts and mechanisms, which is necessary to understand the aging process. In doing this, he also explains many aspects of cancer. The later chapters try to clarify the reason behind the gender- and geography-related differences in life expectancies. Finally, the last two chapters talk about the "do"s and "don't"s of "making more time". The bibliography section at the end of the book directs more interested readers to specific and more advanced sources about the material covered in the book.
Although this book was generally fast-reading, I had to re-read some looong sentences two or even three times in order to put their heads and tails together. Also, I found the last two chapters a little anticlimactic. I guess I was expecting more than "don't smoke, eat right, exercise" type of recommendations. The author doesn't make many predictions about longevity enhancement in the future, but the short science fiction story at the end of the book kind of serves for this purpose.
Still, the book deserves a five star rating in my humble opinion because it successfully explains a very complicated process to the layman without using scientific jargon. Also, the author does not go out on a limb and make unfounded or crazy predictions (like many famous science authors cannot resist the temptation of doing).
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Lover of Good Books on August 13, 2000
Format: Hardcover
If you've ever wondered why we can live to 80 years while our pets or livestock can expect to live for only a small fraction of that span, you'll find the explanations in "The Time of our Lives" very satisfying.
The best part of this book is its exploration of what aging is, in biological terms, and how different modes of aging can be explained by Darwinian theory. This is not a book on how to live longer, but rather a book on what scientists are learning about the mechanisms and reasons for aging.
Kirkwood writes in a lighthearted and readable style, but unlike many popular science writers, he gives his reader total respect. In areas where I keep up with medical research, (like the long-term effects of HRT) I found his book to be right up to date with the research published within the last year.
Best of all, he has no "do this and live for ever" prescription--a nice change from most other books about aging available nowadays, which seem to have been written under the sponsorship of supplement manufacturers.
A pleasant and informative read!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Robert Hughes on December 22, 2002
Format: Paperback
Don't be misled by the first few chapters. The style is relaxed, discursive, and laced with entertaining anecdotes which sometimes seem a little off-subject.
The "disposable soma" theory of aging emerges in Chapter 6. The author first proposed this theory in a paper published in Nature in 1977, and he argues a convincing case. It is a simple but highly plausible theory, like Darwin's theory of evolution, and it defines a framework within which other theories of aging can be understood.
DNA and cells are constantly under attack. They are under attack from such things as ultraviolet radiation, viruses, free oxygen released by normal mitochondrial metabolism, and the odd hiccup during DNA-copying. We have defences against these attacks: the immune-system, anti-oxidants, and a form of DNA proof-reading under which "cells could in principle be as accurate as they liked". BUT all these defences come at a cost. The germ cells are indeed protected at any cost: that is why life goes on forever. But it would be a waste of energy to protect the somatic cells in a way that would prolong life beyond the point at which accidental death would claim almost every individual. The maximum length of time that a member of a species would normally survive in the wild determines the degree of protection which the genes of the species are prepared to pay for.
The irony is that we might be shortening our lives by drowning our bodies with oxidants generated by burning far more calories than we evolved to handle. If only those excess calories could be diverted into improving our internal "repairs & maintenance" and so lengthen our lives instead!
An excellent book, as iconoclastic in its way as Richard Dawkin's "Selfish Gene", though not as melodramatic.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Michelle R. Mcquage on June 8, 2009
Format: Paperback
I received my product in great time! The book was in great condition, as promised. Great seller!
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