Living to 100 years is improbable, but some manage it. More commonly, humans live for a period extending some 70 – 80 years. Life span differs for other species. Some insects live for a day, while some trees can press on for 5,000 years. Life span is species-specific, and the question is why. What determines life span, and why does it differ so profoundly among species?

The prevailing view has to do with telomeres. A telomere is a repetitive DNA sequence at the end of a chromosome. It becomes shorter each time the cell divides. When it becomes sufficiently short, the argument goes, the cell can no longer divide, and it eventually peters out and dies. But that leads to a philosophical question: why would nature curtail lifespan in this abrupt manner while it ordinarily goes to great lengths to preserve life at all costs? After such elaborate measures to ensure life’s preservation, why would it be extinguished by design?

A common response is to guard against overpopulation. Nature’s design might help avert that fate. The argument may seem relevant today, but would overpopulation have been an issue during pre-biblical times? Or earlier? One wonders…

An entirely different longevity paradigm asserts that our demise may rest on something in our environment, something acting persistently to compromise our well-being. If the impact of that feature were to vary among different species, then it might account for the differences in longevity.

The particular idea that I’d like to advance arose after recognizing that our bodies are negatively charged. Every cell in our body bears a negative charge, and even extracellular tissues such as fascia bear a negative charge because of the negativity of the associated EZ water. We are indeed a bolus of negative charge. Generally, the larger that negative bolus, the healthier we are.

If that proposition is accurate, then negatively charged environments should promote health, while positively charged environments ought to do the opposite. Multiple observations support that proposition. We avoid positivity because it impairs function, ultimately leading to death.

One persistent source of positive charge is cosmic energy. The barrage of cosmic energy arriving at the earth derives from multiple sources: the sun; the outer reaches of our galaxy; and distant galaxies. It consists largely of protons and alpha particles (helium nuclei), both species positively charged. It’s powerful enough to destroy sensitive electronics and to elicit health concerns for space travelers.

To the extent that we receive cosmic energy, we’re consistently exposed to positive charge, and if positive charge impairs function, then all aspects of our being are constantly under attack. Eventually, impairment wins out.

Exotic as this thesis may seem, there appears to be no good reason to dismiss the impact of this kind of energy on our longevity.

Accordingly, species abundantly exposed to cosmic radiation should be expected to experience the shortest life span. Species in which critical organs are well shielded from exposure ought to live the longest. The roots of trees, where the main action occurs, lie beneath protective layers of soil. Under that cover, as well as the additional cover of massive tree volumes, roots are well shielded. African Beobab trees may indeed live for some 5,000 years. Insects, by contrast, perpetually outside and fully exposed, should be most sensitive to cosmic radiation. Some live for as short as a day. Think also of turtles, protected from exposure by thick shells. Their life span is long, some observers arguing eternally.

Perhaps the most compelling evidence comes from like species exposed to vs. protected from cosmic radiation. Is there a difference in the life span?

I first ran into such evidence while on a safari with my wife in South Africa. The driver-guide drove us past a series of teepee-like structures made of earth. To me, they seemed even more exotic than the free-ranging giraffes — like structures built by aliens. What, I bluntly asked, were they? I was indeed ready to hear something mysterious, but the structures turned out to be rather mundane.

They were termite mounds. Termites build these structures as their lodging quarters. Those arrays of structures may seem exotic, but so do the similarly shaped tee-pees used by Native Americans until you get accustomed to seeing them. One difference is the lodging place: termites are buried under mounds of earth, much like the roots of the Beobab trees. Might that disposition have some impact on their longevity?

On the issue of life span, the guide felt compelled to talk about the subject without my asking. Like bees, termites classify into three groups: workers, soldiers, and a queen. Workers and soldiers survive for two weeks. Queens, he proudly announced, live for some 60 years.

His assertion led me to check the literature, which essentially confirmed such. Despite coming from the same batch of eggs (how the queen is chosen remains unclear) and therefore genetically identical, life span differs qualitatively: short vs. long. Behaviorally, workers and soldiers leave the mound each day and therefore suffer abundant exposure to the elements while the queen lies deeply buried. She never emerges.

It was then that I began wondering whether life span might have something to do with exposure to cosmic energy. Workers and soldiers are regularly exposed, while the queen is insulated. Though genetically identical, she lives qualitatively longer.

What about other species? Blind-mole rats live in excavated caves, which they rarely leave. They live some ten times longer than mice of similar size. The same with spiders: Trapdoor spiders, remaining lodged in and around their underground burrows, can live 40 years or more, while those spiders dwelling mainly outside commonly live for only one or two years.

Thus, the longevity paradigm appears to hold: species protected from cosmic radiation appear to live longer than those species constantly exposed to that radiation. While that consistency may fall short of “proof,” it is nevertheless consistent with the idea that we’re constantly running down because of exposure to the positive charges of cosmic rays.

Does that imply that you should consider living in a cave? I don’t suggest that move, but if the hypothesis holds, then we might look into devising ways of protecting ourselves from the negative impact of positive radiation. Such an approach might be the most expedient route toward longevity.