Long for This World
The Strange Science of Immortality
By Jonathan Weiner
(Ecco, Hardcover, 9780060765361, 320pp.)
Publication Date: July 2010
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
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From the Pulitzer Prize-winning science writer Jonathan Weiner comes a fast-paced and astonishing scientific adventure story: has the long-sought secret of eternal youth at last been found?
In recent years, the dream of eternal youth has started to look like more than just a dream. In the twentieth century alone, life expectancy increased by more than thirty yearsalmost as much time as humans have gained in the whole span of human existence. Today a motley array of scientists, researchers, and entrepreneurs believe that another, bigger leap is at handthat human immortality is not only possible, but attainable in our own time. Is there genius or folly in the dreams of these charismatic but eccentric thinkers?
In Long for This World, Jonathan Weiner, a natural storyteller and an intrepid reporter with a gift for making cutting-edge science understandable, takes the reader on a whirlwind intellectual quest to find out. From Berkeley to the Bronx, from Cambridge University to Dante's tomb in Ravenna, Weiner meets the leading intellectuals in the field and delves into the mind-blowing science behind the latest research. He traces the centuries-old, fascinating history of the quest for longevity in art, science, and literature, from Gilgamesh to Shakespeare, Doctor Faustus to "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button."
And he tells the dramatic story of how aging could be conquered once and for all, focusing on the ideas of those who believe aging is a curable disease. Chief among them is the extraordinary Aubrey de Grey, a garrulous Englishman who bears more than a passing resemblance to Methuselah (at 969 years, the oldest man in the Bible) and who is perhaps immortality's most radical and engaging true believer.
A rollicking scientific adventure story in the grand manner of Oliver Sacks, Long for This World is science writing of the highest order and with the highest stakes. Could we live forever? And if we could...would we want to?
Jonathan Weiner is one of the most distinguished popular-science writers in the country: his books have won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. His writing has appeared in The New Yorker, Slate, Time, The New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, The New Republic, Scientific American, Smithsonian, and many other newspapers and magazines, and he is a former editor at The Sciences. His books include The Beak of the Finch; Time, Love, Memory; and His Brother's Keeper. He lives in New York, where he teaches science writing at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.
Human life expectancy increases at a rate of about two years per decade -- or roughly five hours a day. Some scientists think it's possible to live for 500 or even 1,000 years. But if we could live that long, would we want to? In his book, Long For This World, Jonathan Weiner explores the possibilities. More at NPR.org
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“Jonathan Weiner has done it again. In LONG FOR THIS WORLD, one of our finest science journalists explores the shadowy sword hanging over us all, weaving together the latest research with time-tested cultural wisdom. Will we ever live forever? And would we even want to?”
-Jonah Lehrer, author of HOW WE DECIDE
“Bizarre, fascinating, and fun.”
-Rebecca Skloot, author of THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS
“A great trip.... Weiner writes engagingly [and] explores the fractured, fuzzy science and pseudoscience of immortality.”
-Abraham Verghese, NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW
“A brilliant and improbably funny look inside the mind-bending science of immortality.”
“The promise of eternal youth is both tantalizingly close and far-fetched in this fascinating primer on longevity research . . . . An engrossing tour of cutting-edge research . . . . Weiner’s erudite, elegant exposition of the underlying science is stimulating yet sobering.”
-Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“LONG FOR THIS WORLD is a rich and fascinating study of the longing for immortality and our lingering doubts about the possibility of surpassing our mortal limits.”
-Simon Critchley, author of THE BOOK OF DEAD PHILOSOPHERS
“I admire all of Jonathan Weiner’s books, but this one especially because of its intellectual depth and clarity, its sense of personal involvement, and its tone and wit. The chapter on the evolution of aging is particularly brilliant! I couldn’t put the book down.”
“In LONG FOR THIS WORLD, Jonathan Weiner brings his immense talents--his masterful prose, his deep reporting, and his ability to see connections across the human experience--to one of science’s most intriguing frontiers: the science of aging.”
-Carl Zimmer, author of THE TANGLED BANK: An Introduction to Evolution and PARASITE REX
“Taxes may be inevitable, but death? Maybe not so much, suggests Jonathan Weiner, one of our finest science writers, in this searching and surprisingly witty look at the scientific odds against tomorrow.”
“I love this book. It is a mesmerizing blend of vivid (sometimes hilarious) reporting, wide-ranging scholarship, and the thoughtful probing of a great mystery. Like everything Jonathan Weiner does, it is far more than the sum of its parts.”