Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Another example of poor reporting from the lamestream media.

Slate. com has an article which asks the question, "why aren't the oldest living people getting any older?" The article claims that "In fact, eight of the last nine "world's oldest" titleholders were 114 when they achieved the distinction. Here's the morbid part: All but two were still 114 when they passed it on. Those two? They died at 115." The article goes on to posit that 114 (or so) is the age people can't live past; that the body simply isn't made to survive longer. Depressingly, the article suggests that predictions that people will one day live to be 150 are akin to predictions made in the 1950s that people in the twenty-first century would have flying cars.

As an initial matter, I am not ready to give up on flying cars. Also, my research indicates that the author is wrong about the last nine titleholders. Three off them, Edna Parker, Maria de Jesus dos Santos, and Gertrude Baines, were 115 when they died. Moreover, the author's use of the last 9 titleholders is an example of the tricks one can play with math depending on when one chooses to stop counting. If the author had counted the last 12 title holders (five of whom lived in the U.S.A.), the title holders would have had 6 people who lived to 114, four who lived to 115, and two who lived to 116. 114 doesn't seem so compelling if half the group lives past 114. I note that counting the last twelve only gets us back to August 2004. We are not talking about a very large sample.

In any event, the biggest problem with the article is that it fails to take into account the possibility that these deaths are all the work of a very clever serial killer. After all, each time a person assumes the title there is a lot of publicity for the person. Then, within a very short time, the person is dead. Are we to believe these deaths are age-based coincidences? According to the author, we are. However, if TV shows like "Lost," "Fringe," "The X Files," and the reportage of Nancy Grace have taught us anything, it is that the simplest explanation is often wrong. Until provided with definitive proof that these deaths are not the result of foul play, I remain unconvinced.


  1. Adam, the Slate author was not wrong...Maria de Jesus was the "one of the nine" (she took the title at 115) so she didn't count as the "of those who took the title at 114." So, you're wrong.

  2. Anon,
    Thanks for the comment/clarification. While, I may be wrong about the age of Maria de Jesus dos Santos when she took the title, I am not wrong that the age of 114 looks a lot less compelling if one looks beyond the the last 9 titleholders (as the author did). Since 1991, there have been 22 people verified to be the world's oldest living person, 13 of them lived to be older than 114.

  3. Nice catch, "Anonymous" -- or should I call you "Mr. or Mrs. Serial Killer of the World's Oldest Person"? Your clever feint (pointing attention away from Mr. Gillette's groundless speculation and toward his erroneous "facts") will not deter us. We will find you. And once you are found and dealt with, immortality awaits us all!!!

  4. Remember to stretch as you get older -- it's literally the key to flexibility. Wait . . it's not literally a key or at least not a physical key or is it literally a key of some sort? Anyway, that's not really important, just stretch!


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