Long For This World: The Strange Science of Immortality
by Jonathan Weiner
3.5 stars, actually. I’m a layperson who came to science via a diagnosis of breast cancer. I love reading mass market science books geared towards explaining medical issues.
I’m fascinated with the ways cells turn themselves on and off, get rid of garbage, and slowly lose function due to aging. I think I had expectations, however, about this book going in that colored how I read it.
It’s very readable. The prose brings in references of all kinds, philosophers, poets, artists, historical figures, etc. At times, the prose, in its own self-congratulatory poetic expression, goes a bit too far out of the bounds of science to make comparisons when explaining a concept. It sometimes just didn’t make sense.
Also, I was hoping for a bit more “here are some current scientific experiments having to do with aging” and a bit less “here’s Aubrey De Grey and I eating breakfast in Ravenna.”
The book is more about Aubrey de Grey and his theories about the 7 deadly ways our bodies kills us and how to stop them juxtaposed with descriptions of his hippiness and his flamboyance rather than a more thorough treatment of the topic, which is what I wanted. Don’t get me wrong, Aubrey de Grey and his meeting up with the author provides for an entertaining read.
However, de Grey has some theories that aren’t quite practical at the current medical moment. For instance, his idea about using some truly potent chemotherapy to kill off all telomeres on our cells so that they couldn’t reproduce and thus mutate/make mistakes and thus cause aging or cancer seems like a horrific solution to this problem.
Anyway, the book flows well, is quite readable, and the voice of the author thought-provoking (if sometimes a bit full of himself as much as Aubrey de Grey). Worth reading for the entertainment value.