It’s 1st April 2012, precisely 36 years since the 1976 release of the classic progressive heavy rock album 2112 by Canadian power trio Rush. More importantly, today is the “precentenary” of the eponymous date of Side 1 of the album. It’s the simple story of rebellion, the tale of an ordinary citizen of some pseudo-utopian world where music is controlled by the “Priests” and their “great computers”. He discovers in a cave an “ancient miracle”, a guitar, tunes it to EADGBE using harmonics and then sets off to reveal this “new wonder” to those all-powerful “Priests”. They face him with their scorn and ridicule and our hero is driven to suicide…or so it seems.
The futuristic “space age” theme hooked into a burgeoning excitement about science fantasy and was probably somewhat carried higher on the wave of the movie Star Wars (the first one, the proper one, now known as Episode IV), which was released in May 1977.
Anyway, what’s any of this got to do with the science beat…well, it being the precentenary of the album’s date, I was wondering about ageing and life extension. Common sense would suggest that no one born on 1st April 1976 will be around to celebrate 2112 when it comes of age. But, there are suggestions that medical advances mean that there is a growing likelihood that those people born in the millennial year (2001, or 2000 depending on whether you are numerate or not) might very well live to see that day.
Certainly, average life expectancy has risen significantly since 1912, 1812 (I take it you spotted Rush’s musical reference in the “Overture” section) and so on. But, people like Aubrey David Nicholas Jasper de Grey (born 20 April 1963), an English author and theoretician in the field of gerontology, suggest that in theory lifespans might be stretched way beyond our nominal three-score years and ten. He has identified seven types of molecular and cellular damage caused by essential metabolic processes that are the primary causes of aging. If we can fix that damage, who knows…we might even have people born today who live not just to see 2112 but perhaps even 2212…