Scientists Wager on Theory of Aging

January 16, 2001; Moscow, ID (AP) -- Two researchers have bet $500 million on what the world record will be for maximum human life span -- a jackpot payable long after they're both gone. Profs. S. Jay Olshansky and Steven Austad established a trust fund this year with $150 each. The fund will grow until Jan. 1, 2150, when the bet is up and payable to the heirs of the winner. Austad believes someone already born will win him the wager, living to be 150.

Olshansky bet that 130 is the top end of the human life span. The wager coincides with the release of a book Olshansky wrote with Bruce Carnes called "The Quest for Immortality: Science at the Frontiers of Aging." Austad, a University of Idaho Zoology Professor, is the author of 1997's " Why We Age: What Science Is Discovering About the Body's Journey Through Life." He contends that technology will stretch life to 150. "We will live longer because cloning technology, combined with stem cell research, is likely to allow the growth of replacement parts in the not-too-distant future," Austad said.

The scientists agreed that simply being alive for 150 years does not count. To win, Austad's 150-year old must be aware of his or her surroundings. The winner will be decided by three scientists chosen by an international scientific organization. If the winner has no living heirs in 2150, universities will receive the money.