Monday, October 19, 2009

What does age measure?

When I frist heard about these "real age" tests I thought it was just another Internet hoax to get you to visit a webpage.

I was home last week for by dad's birthday. He is 67. He recently took one of those online "real age" questionares, and was thrilled to learn that he is actually 47 and 1/2 years old. Over the summer he had to go to the hospital for a kidney stone and when the nurse asked for his age he replied 47 and 1/2 years old. To my dad's great pride, the nurse believed him said the chart needed correction. Fortunately his wife was there to pop his bubble.

My dad has always prided himself on his health. He still skis and sails as actively as he ever did. In West Virginia, people tend to age hard due to obesity, smoking, drinking, hard labor jobs, probably some mine polution in the mix as well. So he tells everyone about his new, younger age.

Just before his birthday, he bumped into a high school buddy who walked with a cane and wore a pace maker. The guy complimented my dad on how good he looks. My dad told him about the "real age" results. The guy looked at him and said, "I took the same test. It said I was 88."

Entropy Law applies as much to our bodies as to any physical thing. I havent researched any scientific studies that have measured entropy's effects on the body, but we see the precepts in action in everyone: the more we push our bodies to do greater quantities of work, at greater speeds, with less rest, the sooner the body will no longer be functional as a conduit for energy, i.e. death. Stress is a little understood bodily function, but it must be the telltale sign of sped-up entropy in our bodies.

The other lesson entropy has for our health is that there is only so much medicine and technology can accomplish to prolong a vital life, or life in any capacity. The body will break down--reversed or stopped aging is impossible if entropy means anything. Will more advanced technology be able to slow aging down significanlty? I doubt this as much as I doubt advanced technology will permit our society's energy expenditures to remain as high as they are now without polution or other negative effects. There is no free lunch.

The trick to a vital life into the 100s is to start slowing entropy's passage through your body as early as possible. There is no magic to this: eat well, excercise, avoid wear-and-tear on the body, avoid drugs (which must act as entropy speeding agents).

What does our age tell us then, other than how long we've been around? Not much. The guy with the pace maker is 67, just like my dad, but what good it that when he is living the life of my grandfather? Maybe these "real age" tests are on to something.

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