'Predict Your Death' Paper Withdrawn

A Science paper that claimed to have figured out how to predict human longevity has been withdrawn by its authors.

Paola Sebastiani and Thomas Perls of Boston University, Massachusetts, and colleagues made use of 150 genetic variations that could be used to predict whether or not a person was likely to live to 100.

Criticism of the paper began to surface within days of its publication. It focused on the researchers' use of different types of genome scanning technologies to analyse different data groups, a technical inconsistency that could lead to erroneous positive results. Science took the unusual step of publishing an editorial last November highlighting a number of concerns with the article.

Academics have expressed particular concern at the researchers' underlying assumption that longevity is a simple genetic trait, controlled by a relatively small number of genes. Previous research had suggested that environmental factors are the overwhelming determinant of how long a person is likely to live.

In his very first story, Lifeline, published in 1939, Robert Heinlein writes about a chronovitameter, a device that predicts precisely the date of a person's death:

"Here it is, boys." The mass of equipment that met their eyes vaguely resembled a medico's office x-ray gear. Beyond the obvious fact that it used electrical power, and that some of the dials were calibrated in familiar terms, a casual inspection gave no clue to its actual use.

Via New Scientist.

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