Age reversal? + Predict when you die + How American tycoons created the dinosaur

First hint that body’s ‘biological age’ can be reversed

INTRO: A small clinical study in California has suggested for the first time that it might be possible to reverse the body’s epigenetic clock, which measures a person’s biological age. For one year, nine healthy volunteers took a cocktail of three common drugs — growth hormone and two diabetes medications — and on average shed 2.5 years of their biological ages, measured by analysing marks on a person’s genomes. The participants’ immune systems also showed signs of rejuvenation. The results were a surprise even to the trial organizers — but researchers caution that the findings are preliminary because the trial was small and did not include a control arm. (MORE)

Researchers are creepily close to predicting when you’re going to die

EXCERPT: If death is in the cards, it may also be in your blood. Measurements of 14 metabolic substances in blood were pretty good at predicting whether people were likely to die in the next five to 10 years. The data was published this week in Nature Communications. A team of researchers led by data scientists in the Netherlands came up with the fateful 14 based on data from 44,168 people, aged 18 to 109. The data included death records and measurements of 226 different substances in blood. Of the 44,168 people, 5,512 died during follow-up periods of nearly 17 years.

[...] The researchers then put their death panel to the test. ... The lineup of apparent markers of doom are perhaps not entirely surprising. Some are already known to signal deadly conditions ... Nevertheless, “[i]n combination, these biomarkers clearly improve risk prediction of 5- and 10-year mortality as compared to conventional risk factors across all ages,” the authors conclude. “These results suggest that metabolic biomarker profiling could potentially be used to guide patient care, if further validated in relevant clinical settings.” (MORE - details)

How American Tycoons Created the Dinosaur

EXCERPT: . . . When standing before one of these towering creatures, such as the T. rex skeleton named Sue in Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History, it is surprisingly difficult to distinguish which features are ancient and which ones are modern, where prehistory ends and imagination begins. If dinosaurs in museums are chimeras, their prehistoric antecedents are unobservable entities. In this respect, dinosaurs resemble subatomic particles like electrons, neutrons, and positrons. ... And in both cases, scientists gain access to their objects of study by interpreting the effects they produce: Electrons leave characteristic marks on a photographic emulsion as they pass through a cloud chamber, and dinosaurs supply us with clues to their former existence in the form of fossilized bones. But dinosaurs are unlike electrons in a number of important ways. For one thing, dinosaurs cannot be experimented upon. ... Because dinosaurs are in part creatures of the imagination, they reveal a great deal about the time and place in which they were found, studied, and put on display...

[...] During the Long Gilded Age, which stretched from the end of Reconstruction to the start of the Great Depression, financial elites like J.P. Morgan and industrialists like Andrew Carnegie rose to enormous power and influence. They oversaw the transition of the country’s political economy from an unruly and highly competitive form of proprietary capitalism to a more managed economy dominated by large corporate firms. This was precisely when dinosaurs from the American West became an icon of science, and the transition to corporate capitalism affected the practice of vertebrate paleontology in surprisingly concrete and far-reaching ways. Not only did dinosaurs reflect the obsession with all things big and powerful that prevailed at the time, but the science of paleontology itself was profoundly influenced by the creation of large, corporately organized, and bureaucratically managed museums of natural history.

[...] American dinosaurs were a scientific and popular sensation, especially once their fossil remains were mounted as free-standing skeletons in urban museums at the turn of the 20th century. In part, this was due to the fossils themselves. American dinosaurs struck many observers as bigger and more imposing than their European counterparts. But the United States also proved an especially receptive environment for these creatures, a fertile niche that promoted their development into the towering behemoths that continue to wow museum visitors. At precisely the same time that dinosaur bones became a public sensation, the U.S. was transforming into an industrial powerhouse of global proportions...

[...] With the best specimens hailing from the country’s interior, dinosaurs became associated with its celebrated western frontier. Their discovery was deeply embedded within the extractive economy that dominated the region at this time. In part because the exploitation of mineral resources in precisely this part of the country was so instrumental in propelling the U.S. into the position of an economic superpower, dinosaurs from the American West were elevated into a symbol for the entire political economy. Widely heralded as having been larger, fiercer, and more abundant than prehistoric animals from Europe, they meshed well with a conventional narrative that celebrated American exceptionalism.

[...] Although the economy was booming, American capitalism was in a state of crisis during this period. The industrial juggernaut was responsible for unprecedented levels of economic growth, but it also produced frequent financial panics and economic depressions. ... This led to a widespread backlash against a system of economic production that seemed to yield almost equal measures of growth and precarity, of gratification and misery. A sense of revolutionary uprising was in the air, leading to widespread moral panic among the social and financial elite, who feared that radical immigrants and incendiary labor leaders were spreading an anarchist message that could bring the industrial economy to its knees.

[...] At the same time, they became avid philanthropists, founding organizations designed to uplift, edify, and educate working people by exposing them to the highest achievements of modern civilization. In the process, they created the nonprofit corporation. These institutions were designed to demonstrate that capitalism could be altruistic as well as competitive—that it worked for the good of all in society, not just the wealthy few.

[...] In addition to establishing universities, libraries, symphonies, and art galleries, wealthy capitalists such as Carnegie founded natural history museums. Natural history doubled as both a popular leisure pursuit and a pious devotional exercise at the time, which made it an especially effective means for showing off one’s generosity among a broad and socially diverse but respectable audience. Of all the branches of natural history, dinosaur paleontology offered a particularly attractive target for philanthropic investment. Dinosaurs lent themselves to the building of spectacular displays that attracted throngs of visitors to the museum, which was crucial to cement the argument that industrial capitalism could produce genuine public goods in addition to profits. Imposing dinosaur displays helped philanthropists such as Carnegie make the claim that because industrial capitalism concentrated wealth in the hands of the few, it unlocked the power for truly awesome achievements. Philanthropists were also drawn to dinosaurs as a powerful tool to help naturalize the evolution of American capitalism.... (MORE - details)

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