Thoughts on aging and dying prompted up by daily trips to Montreal

Y. B. Karasik,
Thoughts Guiding Systems Corp.,
Ottawa, Canada.
e-mail:karasik@sympatico.ca

Why is immortality impossible ? - this question has occupied many thinkers [1]. As a wish ("oh, why cannot I live forever ?") it occasionally enters the mind of everyone. Indeed, it is not obvious why this is impossible. References to that our organs and cells age and are bound to fail are not convincing. Why are cells bound to fail if they can recreate themselves anew and remain young forever ? My recent daily trips to Montreal prompted an answer to this question.

The company manufacturing poker and roulette play-stations for casinos hired me to push their software to a new level. I purchased the monthly pass for the bus shuttling between Ottawa and Montreal and embarked on daily trips to my new place of work. From the window of the bus the thought provoking scenes have opened to me.

The bus made its way through the main gate to Montreal, the impressive Turcot interchange. It was built in the 1960s for Expo 1967 to startle the world [2, 3]. But now despite the daily restorative works on pillars and overpasses of the interchange it is crumbling. It is impossible to completely reconstruct even a single overpass because this would require its closure. And closure of just one overpass would entail the blockage of the entire interchange and all traffic in Montreal. I observed as even a minor accident on the interchange blocked all traffic in the radius of many miles from it. It is not difficult to imagine what would happen if just one overpass would be closed for reconstruction. Neither crew nor construction materials would be able to get there. No reconstruction would be possible.

It might appear that solution is simple: to build a new interchange, reroute all traffic to it, and demolish the old one. But there is no room in Montreal for building another interchange at another place. Just the same place has to be utilized, which is impossible due to the density of the current interchange. There is no sufficient spacing between overpasses to build new ones alongside them. It is also impossible to build above or under them because they densely populate the vertical dimension too. Besides the interchange is quite tall (about 100 feet) and building a new interchange above it is also quite problematic.

And all these prompted me the idea of why we die. Our cells and organs are no doubt capable of rebuilding. But the construction materials have to be brought in and waste removed. This is, surely, has to be done through blood vessels. Part of the blood transport has to be devoted to cells rebuilding rather than organs functioning. The portion of blood transport allocated to rebuilding should grow over time as we age. This is bound to reduce the amount of blood transport devoted to organs functioning. When further reduction becomes impossible without affecting functionality of our organs, the complete rebuilding ceases to be feasible. From this moment on we find ourselves in the Montreal's situation: just partial repair becomes feasible (due to the impossibility to bring in sufficient amount of rebuilding resources) and not complete rebuilding. This is the moment when we start to really age and die and the eventual crumble of our organs becomes unavoidable.

It might appear that there is a remedy: increase the number of blood vessels and the amount of blood traffic. In other words, to start growing again. But this is impossible for the following reason: new vessels have to be longer than the old ones since body grows. The longer vessels will require even longer vessels to rebuild them. And they will be required sooner than the previous ones. The growth has to be exponential to sustain ever growing body, which is, of course, impossible for a long time. That is possibly why our youth is so short. Indeed, our growth in childhood and adolescence is possibly just a means of postponing aging. The growth (slow in the beginning) is indeed exponential before tapering off at the age of 15 approximately.

It appears that our immortality is hinged on resolving a simple technical contradiction: increase in the amount of blood allocated for rebuilding decreases the amount of blood allocated for functioning. Unfortunately, contradiction matrix does not offer a solution.