Immortality and the Jellyfish.

Nathaniel Rich, in The New York Times:

After more than 4,000 years — almost since the dawn of recorded time, when Utnapishtim told Gilgamesh that the secret to immortality lay in a coral found on the ocean floor — man finally discovered eternal life in 1988.

The form of that discovery was, as the title of this post is evident, in slightly different form than Gilgamesh expected (or for that matter what Qin Shi Huang, Ponce de Leon, those who received the Steinach Operation, or Jesus himself expected). Rather, immortality was discovered in an obscure species Turritopis dohrnii, now more commonly known as “the immortal jellyfish”:

Plainly speaking, it refused to die. It appeared to age in reverse, growing younger and younger until it reached its earliest stage of development, at which point it began its life cycle anew.

From there, Rich explores everything about the immortal jellyfish—and the dearth of additional scientific inquiry. It’s a fascinating look you should really just go read now. It sounds unbelievable, though, that these jellyfish could really live forever; it just may be a much longer period than we are used to, and thus it seems that they are immortal. (Perhaps I am overly influenced here by my recent reading of a book on immortality by Stephen Cave.)

One last interesting point, if I may—perhaps the most interesting bit of the entire article. Because the species does not die, it thus proliferates:

 It is possible to imagine a distant future in which most other species of life are extinct but the ocean will consist overwhelmingly of immortal jellyfish, a great gelatin consciousness everlasting.

Why does this not sound like a (somehow) shockingly appropriate end to the world? At least, I suppose, it does if one believes the universe is not without an indelible sense of irony.