EssentialstheDiagonal is a personal blog by Mike Gerra, skeptic, technologist, psychologist, artist, humanist, collector of grand, eclectic ideas.theDiagonal blog connects the dots across multiple disciplines for inquisitive, objective and critical thinkers, exploring the vertices of big science, disruptive innovation, global sustainability, illuminating literature and leftfield art. It is on this diagonal that creativity thrives, big ideas take flight and reason triumphs.
Tag Archives: death
Sunday, April 14, 2013
Leave it to Google to help you auto-euthanize and die digitally. The presence of our online selves after death was of limited concern until recently. However, with the explosion of online media and social networks our digital tracks remain preserved and scattered across drives and backups in distributed, anonymous data centers. Physical death does not change this.
[A case in point: your friendly editor at theDiagonal was recently asked to befriend a colleague via LinkedIn. All well and good, except that the colleague had passed-away two years earlier.]
So, armed with Google’s new Inactive Account Manager, death — at least online — may be just a couple of clicks away. By corollary it would be a small leap indeed to imagine an enterprising company charging an annual fee to a dearly-departed member to maintain a digital afterlife ad infinitum.
From the Independent:...read more
Saturday, January 19, 2013
Despite the recent atrocity in Newtown, Connecticut, at the hands of a madman carrying an assault weapon, death by gun continues unabated in the United States. Yet, accurate statistics are hard to come by. So, Slate and the Twitter feed @GunDeaths are collecting data to put this in perspective. Just over a month has passed since 20 children and 7 adults were gunned-down at Sandy Hook Elementary School. And since then at least 1,019 more people have died at the hands of a gun in the United States. That’s more than most other civilized countries record in a decade.
You can follow the interactive chart as it is updated daily here; another 4 deaths just today, January 17, 2013. According to the map, North Dakota and Wyoming have been the best States to avoid getting shot — both have recorded no deaths from gun violence since mid-December.
Image: partial snapshot of Slate and @GunDeaths interactive graphic. Courtesy of Slate.
Send to Kindle
Friday, December 7, 2012
Chances are that you have a pet. And, whether you’re a dog person or a cat person, or a bird fancier or a lover of lizards you’d probably mourn if you were to lose your furry, or feathery or scaly, friend. So, when your pet crosses over to the other side why not pulverize her or him, filter out any non-carbon remains and then compress the results into, well, a diamond!
Natalie Pilon’s diamond is her best friend.
Every time she looks into the ring on her finger, Ms. Pilon sees Meowy, her late beloved silver cat. Meowy really is there: The ring’s two diamonds were made from her cremated remains.
“It’s a little eccentric—not something everyone would do,” says Ms. Pilon, a biotech sales representative in Boston, whose cat passed away last year. “It’s a way for me to remember my cat, and have her with me all the time.”...read more
Monday, November 26, 2012
In 1977 Elizabeth Blackburn and Joseph Gall, molecular biologists, discovered the structure of the end caps, known as telomeres, of chromosomes. In 2009, Blackburn and colleagues Carol Greider and Jack Szostak shared the Nobel prize in Physiology or Medicine for discovering the enzyme telomerase, the enzyme responsible for replenishing telomeres.
It turns out that telomeres are rather important. Studies shows that telomeres regulate cell division, and as a consequence directly influence aging and life span. When a cell divides the length of its chromosomal telomeres shortens. Once a telomere is depleted its chromosome, and DNA, can no longer be replicated accurately, and the cell no longer divides, hastening cell death.
From the Independent:
A blood test to determine how fast someone is ageing has been shown to work on a population of wild birds, the first time the ageing test has been used successfully on animals living outside a laboratory setting....read more
Friday, November 9, 2012
The handy infographic is compiled from data compiled by the Office of National Statistics in the United Kingdom. So, if you live in the British Isles this will give you an inkling of your likely cause of death. Interestingly, if you live in the United States you are more likely to die of a gunshot wound than a Brit is of dying from falling from a building.
Read the entire article after the jump.
Infographic courtesy of the Guardian.
Send to Kindle
Wednesday, September 5, 2012
Sunday, May 20, 2012
Professor of philosopher Shelly Kagan has an interesting take on death. After all, how bad can something be for you if you’re not alive to experience it?
From the Chronicle:
We all believe that death is bad. But why is death bad?
In thinking about this question, I am simply going to assume that the death of my body is the end of my existence as a person. (If you don’t believe me, read the first nine chapters of my book.) But if death is my end, how can it be bad for me to die? After all, once I’m dead, I don’t exist. If I don’t exist, how can being dead be bad for me?
People sometimes respond that death isn’t bad for the person who is dead. Death is bad for the survivors. But I don’t think that can be central to what’s bad about death. Compare two stories....read more
Friday, March 30, 2012
Apparently the world is due to end, again, this time on December 21, 2012. This latest prediction is from certain scholars of all things ancient Mayan. Now, of course, the world did not end as per Harold Camping’s most recent predictions, so let’s hope, or not, that the Mayan’s get it right for the sake of humanity.
The infographic below courtesy of xerxy brings many of these failed predictions of death, destruction and apocalypse into living color.
Send to Kindle
Sunday, March 11, 2012
The cool inforgraphic below courtesy of FlowingData shows us at a glance that Saturday is the most likely day of the week to be involved in a (fatal) car crash. So, if you’re cautious stick to driving in the middle of the week.
The data is sourced from the National Highway Traffic Safety Association.
Send to Kindle
Wednesday, March 7, 2012
From the Wall Street Journal:
Years ago, Charlie, a highly respected orthopedist and a mentor of mine, found a lump in his stomach. It was diagnosed as pancreatic cancer by one of the best surgeons in the country, who had developed a procedure that could triple a patient’s five-year-survival odds—from 5% to 15%—albeit with a poor quality of life.
Charlie, 68 years old, was uninterested. He went home the next day, closed his practice and never set foot in a hospital again. He focused on spending time with his family. Several months later, he died at home. He got no chemotherapy, radiation or surgical treatment. Medicare didn’t spend much on him....read more
Saturday, March 3, 2012
Below we excerpt a brilliant essay by Alex Byrne summarizing his argument that our personal survival is grossly over-valued. But, this should not give future teleportation engineers chance to pause. Alex Byrne is a professor of philosophy at MIT.
From the Boston Review:
Star Trek–style teleportation may one day become a reality. You step into the transporter, which instantly scans your body and brain, vaporizing them in the process. The information is transmitted to Mars, where it is used by the receiving station to reconstitute your body and brain exactly as they were on Earth. You then step out of the receiving station, slightly dizzy, but pleased to arrive on Mars in a few minutes, as opposed to the year it takes by old-fashioned spacecraft....read more
Monday, January 23, 2012
It’s a Monday, so let’s contemplate some odd and humorous ways to cease to be and then head off to the insurance office.
Infographic courtesy of LifeInsuranceFinder.
Send to Kindle
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Author, polemicist par-excellence, journalist, atheist, Orwellian (as in, following in George Orwell’s steps), and literary critic, Christopher Hitchens shows us how the pen truly is mightier than the sword (though me might well argue to the contrary).
Now fighting oesophageal cancer, Hitchen’s written word continues to provide clarity and insight. We excerpt below part of his recent, very personal essay for Vanity Fair, on the miracle (scientific, that is) and madness of modern medicine.
From Vanity Fair:
Death has this much to be said for it:
You don’t have to get out of bed for it.
Wherever you happen to be
They bring it to you—free.
Pointed threats, they bluff with scorn
Suicide remarks are torn
From the fool’s gold mouthpiece the hollow horn
Plays wasted words, proves to warn
That he not busy being born is busy dying.
—Bob Dylan, “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)”
Sunday, October 23, 2011
Hot on the heals of our look at literary deaths we look specifically at the greatest suicides in literature. Although subject to personal taste and sensibility the starter list excerpted below is a fine beginning, and leaves much to ponder.
1. Ophelia, Hamlet, William Shakespeare
Hamlet’s jilted lover Ophelia drowns in a stream surrounded by the flowers she had held in her arms. Though Ophelia’s death can be parsed as an accident, her growing madness and the fact that she was, as Gertrude says, “incapable of her own distress.” And as far as we’re concerned, Gertrude’s monologue about Ophelia’s drowning is one of the most beautiful descriptions of death in Shakespeare.
2. Anna Karenina, Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
In an extremely dramatic move only befitting the emotional mess that is Anna Karenina, the heroine throws herself under a train in her despair, mirroring the novel’s early depiction of a railway worker’s death by similar means....read more
Saturday, October 22, 2011
Ever wonder how many people have gone before? The succinct infographic courtesy of Jon Gosier takes a good stab at answering the question. First, a few assumptions and explanations:
The numbers in this piece are speculative but are as accurate as modern research allows. It’s widely accepted that prior to 2002 there had been somewhere between 106 and 140 billion homo sapiens born to the world. The graphic below uses the conservative number (106 bn) as the basis for a circle graph. The center dot represents how many people are currently living (red) versus the dead (white). The dashed vertical line shows how much time passed between milestones. The spectral graph immediately below this text illustrates the population ‘benchmarks’ that were used to estimate the population over time. Adding the population numbers gets you to 106 billion. The red sphere is then used to compare against other data.
Checkout the original here.
Send to Kindle
Tim Lott over at the Guardian Book Blog wonders which are the most dramatic literary deaths — characters rather than novelist. Think Heathcliff in Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights.
From the Guardian:
What makes for a great literary death scene? This is the question I and the other four judges of the 2012 Wellcome Trust book prize for medicine in literature have been pondering in advance of an event at the Cheltenham festival....read more
Friday, October 21, 2011
Would you like to know when you will die?
This is a fundamentally personal and moral question which many may prefer to keep unanswered. That said, while scientific understanding of aging is making great strides it cannot yet provide an answer to the question. Though it may only be a matter of time.
Giles Tremlett over at the Guardian gives us a personal account of the fascinating science of telomeres, the end-caps on our chromosomes, and why they potentially hold a key to that most fateful question.
From the Guardian:
As a taxi takes me across Madrid to the laboratories of Spain’s National Cancer Research Centre, I am fretting about the future. I am one of the first people in the world to provide a blood sample for a new test, which has been variously described as a predictor of how long I will live, a waste of time or a handy indicator of how well (or badly) my body is ageing. Today I get the results....read more
Monday, October 17, 2011
Ushering in our week of articles focused mostly on death and loss is a classic piece by Welshman, Dylan Thomas. Although Thomas’ literary legacy is colored by his legendary drinking and philandering, many critics now seem to agree that his poetry belongs in the same class as that of W.H. Auden.
By Dylan Thomas:
- And Death Shall Have No Dominion...read more
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Bad news and good news. First, the bad news. If you’re between 45-54 years of age your cause of death will most likely be heart disease, that is, if you’re a male. If you are a female on the other hand, you’re more likely to fall prey to cancer. And, interestingly you are about 5 times more likely to die falling down stairs than from (accidental) electrocution. Now the good news. While the data may give us a probabilistic notion of how we may perish, no one (yet) knows when.
More vital statistics courtesy of this macabre infographic derived from data of National Center for Health Statistics and the National Safety Council.
Send to Kindle
Saturday, August 20, 2011
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
Social scientists may have already examined the cross-cultural regrets of those nearing end of life. If not, it would make fascinating reading to explore the differences and similarities. However, despite the many traits and beliefs that divide humanity, it’s likely that many of these are common.
By Massimo Pigliucci at Rationally Speaking:
Bronnie Ware is the author (a bit too much on the mystical-touchy-feely side for my taste) of the blog “Inspiration and Chai” (QED). But she has also worked for years in palliative care, thereby having the life-altering experience of sharing people’s last few weeks and listening to what they regretted the most about their now about to end lives. The result is this list of “top five” things people wished they had done differently:...read more