Science Café: Ask a Scientist a Question, Such as 'Are There Upper Limits to Human Lifespan?'

If you've ever wanted to ask a scientist a question, here's your opportunity.

Ask away at the Science Café.

This is an informative scientific presentation held the second Wednesday of each month in the G St. Wunderbar, 228 G St., Davis. The scientist delivers a brief talk and then engages the public.

Next Wednesday, Oct. 10, biodemography expert James R. Carey, a UC Davis distinguished professor of entomology and an expert on human aging (as well as insects!) will speak at 5:30 p.m. on "Are There Upper Limits to Human Lifespan?"

How long can humans live? Well, supercentarian Jeanne Calment of France (1875-1997), lived to be 122. Born Feb. 21, 1875, she died Aug. 4, 1997.  She enjoyed a healthy lifestyle, prayed and exercised daily, and lived a basically stress-free life. But yes, she drank a little wine and smoked a little. She outlived her husband, daughter and grandson.

“Why do we live as long as we do (evolutionary question), why do we age (mechanisms question) and why do we die (closure question)?” Carey asks.

Some of the topics to be discussed at the event, billed as “a conversation and dialogue with a scientist,” include:

  • The trends in aging research on extending human lifespan.
  • Theoretical arguments for upper limits and empirical evidence in humans
  • The impact of disease elimination and organ replacement on longevity
  • With the changes in human life expectancy, humans are now being given a second chance-- somewhat like the proverbial cat with nine lives--after an otherwise life-ending disease or incident
  • Look to nature for perspectives on the limits of “life duration,” for example 40,000-year-old frozen nematodes; hibernation and dormancy) and limits to “active lifespan.”

An internationally recognized leader and distinguished scholar in insect demography and invasion biology, spanning three decades, Carey also researches health demography, biology of aging, and lifespan theory. He is the author of a landmark study published in the journal Science in 1992 that showed mortality of Mediterranean fruit flies (medflies) slows at older ages. Earlier this year scientists confirmed that this also occurs in humans, citing the study of 105-year-old Italian women.

Carey, who joined the UC Davis faculty in 1980, directed an 11-university, $10 million, 10-year study on biodemography of aging from 2003-2013. He is also known for discovering Carey's Equality or the death distribution in a life table population equals its age structure. He teaches a popular longevity course that draws 250 to 300 students year, and recently authored a book on biodemography, to be published by Princeton University next year.

And, if you want to ask Professor Carey about medflies, he can answer those, too. He was a recent recipient of a UC Davis Academic Senate Distinguished Scholarly Public Service Award for his “outstanding research, outreach and advocacy program involving invasion biology, specifically his significant contributions on two California insect pest invaders, the Mediterranean Fruit Fly (medfly) and the Light Brown Apple Moth (LBAM).”

Professor Jared Shaw, interim chair of the UC Davis Department of Chemistry and founder of the Science Café series, will host the Oct. 10th presentation. Launched in 2012 and initially supported by the National Science Foundation, the popular series now draws support from the Department of Chemistry and Division of Mathematical and Physical Sciences and is promoted by Capital Science Communicators.

See schedule on the UC Davis Department of Chemistry website.