In the 1980s, factories started shifting from the unionized north of the U.S. to the non-unionized South; then they moved further south to Mexico; then, as the digital revolution enabled more sophisticated supply-chain management, they moved to China. New manufacturing jobs appearing in America highlight the way the globalization of manufacturing is turning full circle, he says.

It’s all connected, of course—the reason we live longer today is that we are living in an entirely different world than the one people inhabited at the end of the 19th century. It’s less nasty, less brutish, and less short. One final reason we’re living longer is that we have less exposure to the most heart-breaking risk factor for death: bereavement. In other words, we are living longer because our loved ones are living longer, and thus we are less likely to be sunk in grief than at any time in human history.

One of the most fascinating debates in life science these days is between Olshansky and James Vaupel of the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock, Germany. They disagree fundamentally about whether and how average life expectancy will increase in the future, and they’ve been arguing about it for 20 years. Olshansky, a lovely guy, takes what at first sounds like the pessimistic view. He says the public health measures that raised life expectancy so dramatically from the late 1800s to today have done about as much as they can. We now have a much older population, dying of age-related diseases, and any improvements in treatment will add only incrementally to average life expectancy, and with vanishing returns… On the other side of the ring is Vaupel, who says that people are living longer and healthier lives all the time and there is no necessary end in sight.

  • While the environment and your wallet may thank you for installing some solar panels on your roof, it seems that firefighters will not. Firefighters often require roof access to cut ventilation holes, and enter and exit. Something made a lot more dangerous when solar panels are present:

the presence of rooftop-mounted PV arrays has made cutting through a roof more challenging. In the past, the fire service had plenty of room to ventilate where it is most effective — directly above the fire. With PV arrays now covering large areas of roofs, firefighters are limited in where they can cut and where they can exit the roof. Since the PV modules cannot be cut through, and moving them is time-consuming and potentially dangerous, rooftop PV systems pose some risks — mainly shock and trip hazards.

Each year, food that is produced but not eaten guzzles up a volume of water equivalent to the annual flow of Russia's Volga River and is responsible for adding 3.3 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases to the planet's atmosphere.