Scientists have discovered a 'death gene' that reveals the hour at which a person is most likely to die.
Researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre in Boston found the gene variation during research into Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease.
But what if scientists found a gene that could tell not just the time but the exact date you were going to die?
Would you want to know just how long you had left? Or is ignorance bliss?
Says Liz Kearney
The internet is home to an infinite number of websites where you can while away the hours learning precisely nothing about anything.
Among the more eye-catching time-wasters are assorted 'death clock' sites like deathclock.com – proud to be the internet's friendly reminder that time is slipping away – and death-clock.org, which boasts that it's been predicting the demise of others since 2006.
If you've never been on these websites (and just what have you been doing with your time?), basically they ask you to enter your date of birth, your weight, and some additional health details like your BMI or your smoking status.
Then, helpfully – and free of charge! – the site does a quick calculation and reveals the date on which you're going to die.
It's just a joke, obviously. Because a ridiculous website, complete with images of a cartoon-ish grim reaper clutching a giant scythe or a huge, gothic-style clock ticking down the seconds, is hardly going to be able to tell when you're going to die, now is it?
Of course not. So why am I still too scared to type in my details? Why am I too frightened to hear what the internet might tell me, even though I know it's total rubbish?
So if scientists devised a real test that could accurately predict when you were going to die, I'm 100pc certain that I'd never take it.
I salute all those brave people who say they'd like to know. I suspect they're constructive, carpe diem types who already know that their time on earth is limited and are busy making the most of it so when the eventually shuffle off this mortal coil, they'll go out singing that they regret rien.
You know the types: they get up early and go to the gym before putting in a super-productive 10-hour day at the office, then fill their evenings training for marathons, learning Hebrew or knitting scarves for the needy.
We're too busy worrying about things that almost certainly will never happen. We already exist in worst-case scenario mode. Add a death date to that mix, and we'd be so paralysed by fear we might never get out of bed again.
Anxious types are already prone to the kind of self-pity that drives our friends and family crazy. They have to spend hours reassuring us that we'ren ot too fat, too poor, too stupid, too badly dressed, or too moany (although we know that last one's true). Just imagine how tough their job would be if they had to console us that we were dying every day for forty years.
The late writer Nuala O'Faolain, in the heartbreaking radio interview she gave after she was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, spoke of the amazing human capacity to deny, despite all evidence to the contrary, that we are mortal, finite beings.