Cradle to Grave (2017) - full transcript

Through our subject Adam, we reveal the incredible changes and forces that take all humankind from Cradle to Grave.


ADAM: Listen.


That's the sound of my old heart

beating its four billionth beat.


[people chatting]

If you're lucky enough
to reach this milestone,

well, then, I hope, like me,

you'll feel it's worthy
of a toast.


To life.

It's one hell of a ride.

ALL: To life.

ADAM: My name is Adam,

and I'd like to tell you
my story.

Now, are we going to eat
this cake or just look at it?


The whole story
of a single human life...

a transformation
beyond imagination,

inside and out.

How secret worlds you never see

happening inside you
every moment you're alive

drive the person you become

through decades
of choices and chances

that make our lives unique.

So this is my story.

But look a little closer,
and it's your story, too.

The journey of a lifetime

on the path we all travel...

¶ ¶

from cradle to grave.

¶ ¶

people have come together

to wish joy in the New Year
ahead across this whole land.

Clock is showing there are just
a few seconds to go now

before the New Year, and
the ball has started descending.

ADAM: This is my parents'

on the night they will always
believe I was conceived.


ADAM: But the truth is,
all this moment really gives you

is a ticket to the start line.


¶ [Wagner's
Ride of the Valkyries] ¶

The race for life.

300 million possible people
on an epic journey

across a vast,
hostile territory...

all chasing the same
distant prize--the egg.

A 300 million-to-1 shot,

and just like you,
I beat those odds.

Imagine that.

All the more incredible,

because at this point
'possible me'

was way back in a hundred
and something millionth place.

You see I wasn't the biggest,
the fastest or the strongest.

But you don't have to be.

To win this race...

¶ ¶

you need luck...

you need stamina...

and above all else,

you need...


What did your Uncle Mike do

before he got married?

ADAM: 12 hours later,

and you wouldn't know it
from looking at her,

but a genuine miracle was about
to take place inside my mom.

You see, lucky for me,
my faster brothers and sisters

had been softening up the egg
ahead of me,

so when I finally got there,

I slid right in.

[laughter on radio]

This was the moment
of conception.

ABBOTT: Hey, look, Costello,
it's our secretary,

Viola Vonn.

ADAM: And she never
even flinched.

¶ ¶

I guess my dad would
have been surprised

to know that when
Mom actually got pregnant

he was 12 feet across the room.

Inside the egg, two sets
of chromosomes combine,

23 from each parent--

46 chromosomes containing
the unique DNA code

for who you'll be,

the blueprint for
a brand new human being

inside a single cell.

Now all they had to do was wait.

When a 1,000-gallon tank

of hot water was ready,

he'd drag a chicken through it!


ADAM: That cell divided in two,
then four, and kept on going,

till just three weeks later,

my fledgling heart
beat its very first beat.

[rapid heartbeat]

That heartbeat is controlled by
a small patch of nerve cells

called your sinoatrial node,

which raise or lower
your heart rate as required,

and they'll keep doing that job
day in and day out

without you ever having
to think about it,

for the rest of your life.

¶ ¶


¶ ¶

Four months and 27 odd million
beats later...

I started to make
my presence felt.

MARIE: Hey, come here.

¶ ¶

Can you feel that?

[muffled music playing]

¶ ¶

BOB: He's dancing.

[muffled music]

ADAM: I may only have been about
11 inches from head to foot,

but inside that head,

my cochlea, the shell-like
part of my inner ear,

was already functioning.

[muffled music]

Sound funnels in, vibrating
thousands of tiny hairs,

each transmitting specific
frequencies to the brain,

letting you respond to music
or your parents' voices,

even if they are a bit muffled.

BOB: Hey in there.

You want to dance with us?

¶ ¶

ADAM: Don't mind if I do.

[muffled music]

¶ ¶

The single biggest development
in the womb, though,

is your brain.

The command center that
controls you is in overdrive,

producing up to 50,000
brand new neurons every second.

By full term, you'll have
100 billion of them

ready to receive and
transmit information.

But this explosive cerebral
growth is also a problem.

After nine months in the womb,

your head has already grown
to a quarter of adult size.

Any bigger, and you'd never
make it out of your mother.

[woman screaming]

So, on September 14, 1950,
for me and my big head...

DOCTOR: It's coming out.

NURSE: Doing good?

ADAM: was now or never.

NURSE: Push.
DOCTOR: Here we go.

NURSE: Good.

[muffled screaming]

You did it.

ADAM: Now, I may have been
out of the womb,

but I wasn't out of the woods.

At birth,
your walnut-sized heart

has already tallied
around 54 million beats.

But for you to survive,

somewhere around beat
54 million and one,

it has to really up its game.

DOCTOR: Here we go. Come on.

ADAM: In the womb,

you got all the oxygen
you needed direct from your mom.

A hole in your heart
bypassed your dormant lungs.

Now that you're out,

your first gasps of air need
to close that hole--and fast.


[baby cries]

DOCTOR: There we go.
There we go.

ADAM: Rerouting your blood...


and jump-starting your lungs...

DOCTOR: Get this guy covered up
and cleaned up here.

ADAM: that now
blood enters

the right side of your heart,

gets pumped to your lungs
where it takes on oxygen,

then flows back to the left side

where another pump sends it
round your body.

Once that's up and running,
you're on your own.



Would you like to hold him?

MARIE: Yeah.

NURSE: There you go.

MARIE: Well, hi.

¶ ¶

[door opens]

¶ ¶

BOB: Beautiful.

Just like his mama.

NURSE: Does he have a name yet?

MARIE: Adam.

We're gonna call you Adam.

¶ ¶

ADAM: Detroit, 1950.

¶ ¶

The post-war boom
was in full swing.

The American dream was thriving,

and so was I.

A month out of the hospital,

I'd grown an inch
and put on seven ounces.

¶ ¶

Which may not sound like much,

but if you continued growing
at that rate,

by age 10 you'd be
nearly 12 feet tall.

MARIE: He's looking at you.

ADAM: Was I?

Hard to say.

At one month,
you can't focus on anything

more than eight inches away.

But even that blurry image
is something of an achievement.

Your eyes actually work
like pinhole cameras,

meaning the image they see is
upside down and back to front.

Your brain has to learn
to compensate,

inverting the image and
flipping it right-side up.

Focus, movement tracking
and depth perception

take far longer.

¶ ¶

MARIE: What is going on?

What is going on?

ADAM: Six months in, and lucky
for me, my vision was 20/20.


ADAM: But that didn't mean
I was happy.


Because the next major
breakthrough in my development

was beginning to break through.


MARIE: Here.

ADAM: Teething.

In the natural growth of your
body, nothing is more violent.

Tooth enamel is the hardest
substance in the human body.

To get a full set of baby teeth,

you have to go through eruptions
like these 20 times.

And it wasn't just
painful for me.

MARIE: Ah! Oh!

ADAM: Honestly, you take
one little nibble,

and it's a one way ticket
to the bottle.

But new teeth meant
new opportunities.

BOB: And here comes
the airplane.


That's a boy.

That's a boy.

That's my boy.

ADAM: Moving on from milk

brings your digestive system
into its own,

stripping the nutrients that
let you live and grow--

protein, carbohydrates, fats,
vitamins, and minerals--

from every mouthful you eat.

BOB: He's holding
the spoon himself.


ADAM: Astonishingly, to power me
through my life since,

my digestive system
has had to process

more than 70 tons of food.

Back then, all that extra
nutrition let me do something

I'd been itching for--

strike out on my own.

Slow going at first, but
crawling does a lot for you.

Building muscle and developing
balance and coordination,

and giving your rapidly
developing skeleton

a good workout, too.

¶ ¶

Over time, the 300 or so
small bones you're born with

will morph into
206 larger bones.

¶ ¶

From day to day,

the changes you go through
are almost imperceptible,

but speed them up,

and you start to see just
how profound they are.

¶ ¶

In fact, throughout year one,

the only thing constant
in your life is change.

¶ Happy birthday, dear Adam ¶

ADAM: My first birthday.



And also the day that after
a little prompting...

BOB: Watch this.
Say 'Daddy,' Adam.


ADAM: I said my first word.

BOB: Daddy.

Say it for me.

ADAM: Mama.

ALL: Oh!

ADAM: Not quite what
he was gunning for,

but at least he got it on film.

And not long after, with a bit
more help from my pop,

I learned the neatest
trick of all...

opening a world
of possibilities.

¶ ¶

One small step, the first
of around 200 million,

enough to walk right around
the planet four times.

¶ ¶

September 1954,
I was 4 years old,

and about as happy in my world
as a kid can be.

For many in America,
it was a time of innocence.

For others, a time of struggle.

The wheels of change
were turning,

and my life was about
to change dramatically, too.

¶ ¶

MARIE: What?

ADAM: Dad said we were moving...

BOB: We got the loan.

MARIE: You're kidding!

BOB: Uh-uh.

MARIE: Oh, that's wonderful.

...'cause Mom was pregnant.

¶ ¶

ADAM: I wanted no part of it.

So the night before
moving day...

MARIE: Adam?

ADAM: ...I ran away from home.

MARIE: Oh, no.




MARIE: Okay!
BOB: Our new home.

MARIE: Here we are, Adam.

Oh, my!

BOB: Look at this.


BOB: Picture time.

ADAM: Lucky for me,
my great escape was short-lived.

MARIE: Come on, Adam.

Daddy wants to take a photo.

ADAM: Age four, I wasn't allowed
to cross the street on my own,

so I just walked round and round
the block till they found me.

BOB: Yeah, good spot.

And on three
everybody say cheese!

One, two, three.

MARIE: Cheese!

ADAM: But as I soon found out,

suburban flight had
some major consolations.

¶ I don't even know
the time of day ¶


Like my very own backyard.

I loved it!

Sun on my back,
dirt under my nails,

grass beneath my feet.

¶ ¶

Course I never thought about it
back then,

but all those sensations

are actually down to the largest
and fastest-growing organ

you possess--

your skin.

it's a rugged, alien landscape,

not unlike a football with hair.

But take a look under the
surface, and it's so much more.

Your dermis,
a vast, microscopic jungle.

Collagen and elastin give your
skin its stretch and structure.

Sweat glands allow you
to regulate body temperature.

Bundles of nerve cells

let you feel sensations
of touch, heat and pain.

So my first real memory is
how great it felt doing this.


MARIE: Adam, bath time.

ADAM: What?

MARIE: Come on, honey,
it's bath time.

¶ ¶

ADAM: It's funny,
the things that stay with you.

I remember Mom saying...

MARIE: Always brush your teeth
twice a day.

It's important.

ADAM: ...although
she never said why.

But when you think right now

there are around 20 billion
bacteria in your mouth

reproducing every five hours,

go 24 hours without brushing,

and that 20 billion
becomes 100 billion.

You can see she had a point.

MARIE: Good boy, Adam.

ADAM: But most of all I remember

that every single day
was an adventure.

¶ ¶

This isn't just
physically exhausting.

Every new experience creates
thousands of extra pathways

between the billions of neurons
in your brain.

It's a total sensory overload,

and that leads
to only one thing.

¶ [Tchaikovsky's Dance
of the Sugar Plum Fairy] ¶

In the first part of sleep,

your exhausted brain
all but shuts down

as your body works on
restoring energy

and repairing damaged tissue.

Then REM, R.E.M. or rapid eye
movement sleep takes over.

Your closed eyes
begin to dart around

as your brain comes alive
and starts to dream.

¶ ¶

And as you dream,
your brain reorganizes itself,

trimming useless connections
and strengthening useful ones,

helping you send information
on your experiences

to the right places.

And the other thing we all do
in our sleep

is most of our growing.

¶ ¶

Three years
of sweet dreams later,

I weighed 59 pounds and was
four feet, two inches tall.

My heart had grown, too,

and in fact, you can tell
how much just by looking at me.

It just so happens that
throughout your life,

your heart is always about the
same size as one of your fists.


And that, by the way,
was its half a billionth beat.

¶ ¶

Now, around age seven

your imaginative abilities
begin to explode.

And in 1957, that coincided
with another explosion--

TV Westerns.

I loved them, and
they taught me a lot.

COWBOY: Well, if you're looking
for a fight, young man,

I'd be happy to oblige you.

ADAM: Stand up for what's right,
whatever the cost.

COWBOY: Hey, pilgrim,
you got something on your shoe.

ADAM: And no matter
how hard the fight,

no one ever really gets hurt.

Childish? Without a doubt.

But your sense of
right and wrong at this age

is a key factor in your rapidly
developing personality.

And mine was about to be
tested to the limit...

[bullet ricochets]

¶ ¶

...on my first day at school.

¶ ¶

Now, some moments
change your life

in ways you can't
begin to imagine.

This one changed mine, and it
was all down to Alice Kendall.

ADAM: Hey!

Leave her alone.

As a great man once said,

'If you can keep your head while
all around are losing theirs,

then it's highly likely

you haven't fully grasped
the situation.'

FRANCIS: Oh, yeah?
Who's gonna make me?

ADAM: Luckily, my body
was way ahead of me

and activated
my fight or flight response,

an unconscious evolutionary
reaction to sudden danger,

like a predator,

or in this case, Francis Zito.

Your brain triggers the release
of adrenaline and cortisol.

Your heart beats
faster and harder,

pumping oxygen and glucose
around your body.

Blood vessels in your skin

constrict to limit bleeding
from injury.

Hairs stand on end
as your muscles tense,

ready to defend yourself or run,

and your pupils dilate
as you focus on the threat.

So what was it going to be?

ADAM: If you're looking
for a fight, young man,

I'd be happy to oblige you.


FRANCIS: What did you say,

ADAM: I said, hey, pilgrim,
you got something on your shoe.

So it turns out
the top of a person's head

is one of the hardest parts
of the body,

and the 27 bones in your hand,
some of the most delicate.


Especially those two.




Unlike on TV,
someone did get hurt.

GROUP: Fight, fight, fight,

fight, fight, fight!

TEACHER: Francis!

GROUP: Fight, fight,
fight, fight, fight!

ADAM: And along with
a broken hand and a black eye,

I think I might have
been concussed.

'Cause what I heard next was...

ALICE: That was
the sweetest thing I ever saw.

ADAM: Huh?

But apparently...

ALICE: I said that was
the stupidest thing I ever saw.

¶ ¶

ADAM: Ouch.


¶ ¶

DOCTOR: Okay, so we're gonna
need to realign the bones

a little bit here.

ADAM: Will it hurt?


ADAM: Really?

It's gonna hurt like hell.

It's over now.

Let's get you plastered up.

ADAM: Now, all I'd see
in the weeks ahead

would be the plaster cast,

but inside there'd be
a lot going on.

¶ ¶

Blood clots around the break

flooding the area with
an army of repair cells.

Inside the clot,

a loose collagen mesh forms
to bridge the gap.

Cartilage binds
the collagen mesh together,

and that cartilage gets replaced
by newly synthesized bone.

¶ ¶

By the time it's all done,
you'll be good as new.

But in the meantime,
getting plastered up

meant going straight
back to school,

and a whole world of trouble.


ADAM: Six painful months as the
school bully's favorite piñata

quickly taught me that flight
is also a useful option.

And that's how I met
Billy and Max.

BILLY: If you hide in here,

you have to bring
cookies and comics.

ADAM: Okay.

BILLY: We'll share ours with you
today 'cause you're new,

but from here on,
you have to bring your own.

ADAM: Turned out I wasn't
Francis's only victim,

and it's funny how a common
enemy brings people together.

Intergalactic Space Baseball.


Okay, so they were geeks
holed up in a janitor's closet,

but then so was I.

And of course, there's nothing
us geeks like more than a plan.

TEACHER: Open it.

There's nothing in there.

TEACHER: Open it.

No, there's nothing in there.

ADAM: The school pet
went missing.


FRANCIS: I don't know how
that got in there.

TEACHER: That's it, Francis,
this is the last straw.

Principal's office.

FRANCIS: I didn't do it!

Somebody set me up. It's...

ADAM: Francis got suspended

and his Mom packed him off
to boarding school.

FRANCIS: I didn't do it!

ADAM: I felt pretty bad
about it...

for about five and a half

¶ ¶

¶ Tuesday's the day
I'll make you mine ¶

¶ The sun is rising
over the hay ¶

¶ I know it's gonna be
a wonderful day ¶

¶ Good morning, good morning,
rise and shine ¶

Now, somewhere around
the age of eight,

your motor skills
and coordination

begin to rapidly improve,

which comes in handy

when it's all square
at the bottom of the ninth

in a serious game
of intergalactic baseball.

BILLY: On this pitch rests
the future of the galaxy.

ADAM: And when you think about
what's involved

in actually hitting a baseball,
it's a wonder they ever get hit.

First, your eyes have
to detect the ball...

then your brain needs to
calculate the speed and path...

before sending signals
to your larger muscles

to move your body into the right
position to begin your swing...

and you adjust your hands
and the path of the bat

to meet the ball.

Even as kids, we're capable
of doing all these things

in less than
a quarter of a second.

¶ I know it's gonna be
a wonderful day ¶

¶ Good morning, good morning ¶

BILLY: The aliens win!

The aliens win!

¶ Good morning, good morning,
rise and shine ¶

ADAM: Beat 581,042,006.

My first home run.

¶ ¶

Over the next three years
I grew seven inches taller

and gained 18 pounds.

And I actually started
to like school.

TEACHER: Getting there, Adam.

Keep it up.

ADAM: Around age 12,

you start thinking in more
complex and abstract ways,

and that's when
I heard something

that stopped me in my tracks.

TEACHER: Now, I promised you
a treat, and here it is.

We're going to listen
to our president.


We choose to go to the moon...

ADAM: It was like he was
talking right to me.

KENNEDY: We choose to go
to the moon in this decade

and do the other things...

not because they are easy,
but because they are hard.

BILLY: Watch out, the asteroid!

KENNEDY: Because that goal will
serve to organize and measure

the best of our energies
and skills.

¶ ¶

ADAM: If JFK was going
to the moon,

every kid in America
was going with him.

But as it turned out, of course,

even those with the greatest
vision can't see the future.

They found several witnesses

who saw a man in the window
of a building

overlooking the parade route
with a gun in his hand.

MAN: the White House
press secretary

that President Kennedy died

at approximately one o'clock
Central Standard Time,

which is about 35...

ADAM: The shock of that moment
shook America to its core.

I've heard people say their
childhood ended that day.

And not long after,
mine actually did.

¶ ¶

It all started when
my hypothalamus

sent a signal
to my pituitary gland

telling it to release a couple
of gonadotropic hormones,

which stimulated
testicular growth,

flooding my system with
20 times more testosterone.

And that starts
a chain of events

which transforms you completely.

¶ ¶



ADAM: Now, at the time
it all seems very serious,

but looking back, puberty has
a hell of a sense of humor.

The first thing you notice is
you have hair in new places,

around your groin and
under your armpits.

The next thing you notice
is the smell.

Now, we may think of BO
as a bad thing,

but it's part of the whole point
of this new growth.

Pubic hair not only acts as a
visual signal to potential mates

of the changes
you're going through,

but by increasing
the surface area

that your natural scent
can cling to,

it also signals those changes
by smell...

whether you like it or not.

[aerosol spray hissing]

For puberty's next trick,

your whole body goes through
a growth spurt.

But the awkward thing is,
not all at once.

Your extremities begin
to grow first--

hands, feet and head,

followed by your legs and arms,

and then finally, mercifully,

your torso and
your shoulders catch up.

In three years,
I'd grown ten inches

and reached full
sexual maturity.


TEACHER: It is possible to live

on nothing but furious hope,

ADAM: Puberty's final trick
is a doozy.

...and this system was...

ADAM: Just as it gets you
interested in girls,

and when I say girls, I should
really say Marianne Hapinowicz,

it does this to your face.

¶ I found love ¶

Glands in your skin produce
an oily substance called sebum

to help moisturize
and protect it.

The extra testosterone
puberty loads into your system

slams sebum production
into overdrive.

Dead skin cells, dirt
and bacteria get trapped

causing inflammation
and infection.

Pus forms in your sebum glands
and oozes up to the surface.

¶ Bring me joy,
my sweet lover boy ¶

In just one year the average
teenager produces enough sebum

on their forehead alone
to fill a coffee cup.

TEACHER: And that answer
would be?


MARIANNE: The third party suits.

TEACHER: Correct.

ADAM: Still, I wasn't alone.

TEACHER: The mineworkers become
soldiers, singing while they...

ADAM: Needless to say, none
of us had dates for junior prom.

¶ ¶

A year later, though,
it was the summer of love,

and things were on the up.

My skin had cleared up,

and I was tall enough
to make point guard

on the varsity basketball team.


ADAM: Then one night
after a win...

MARIANNE: Hey, Adam.

Can I talk to you?

ADAM: Sure.


ADAM: Yeah. Yeah.

Uh, yeah.

¶ ¶

It turns out that looking
at back at your first love

and wondering 'What the hell
was I thinking?'

has a scientific explanation.

Evolution is pro-reproduction,

so it doesn't want
a little thing

like being infatuated
with someone

who's actually only interested
in your jacket

to get in the way.

Okay, well, this is me.

ADAM: Yeah.

MARIANNE: You can kiss me
if you want.

¶ I'll be yours forever ¶


¶ Forever and a day ¶

¶ And I know... ¶

ADAM: In the early days
of a relationship,

your brain actively switches off

what little critical faculty
it has...

MARIANNE: Bye, Adam.

ADAM: that you don't
notice things

you don't like
about your partner.

Love really is blind.

¶ ¶

¶ ¶

Now, the way I remember it,
I'd never been happier.

But strangely enough, the level
of serotonin in your brain,

which you have to thank

for your sense of happiness
and well-being,

actually falls
when you fall in love.

But at the same time,
dopamine levels increase,

causing feelings of pleasure,
euphoria and excitement,

which feels great,
so you seek more,

which releases more dopamine,

which feels great,
so you seek more, and so on.

In fact, chemically speaking,

love has more in common with OCD
and drug addiction

than with actual happiness.

I can think of worse ways

to have clocked up
my first billionth beat.

Spring 1968, a few months
before graduation.

My grades were good,

Marianne and me were
nuts about each other,

and the team was great, two wins
away from qualifying for state.

This is my anterior cruciate

the part of my knee

that connects my thighbone
to my shinbone.

Ah! Argh!

And then it didn't.

Ligaments are there to limit
the movement of your joints,

stopping them moving
the wrong way.

Ah! Mmm. I'm okay.

Without that limitation...

Ah! Ahh!

[buzzer sounds] season was over.

But at least I still had
Marianne to cheer me up.

[doorbell rings]



Look, there's no easy way
of saying this,

but there's someone else.

ADAM: What?

MARIANNE: It just happened.

We love each other.

I'm sorry,
it's really hard for me.


ADAM: Beat 1,015,000,072.

My first broken heart.


[crickets chirping]



¶ ¶

¶ I shouldn't have called you ¶

Getting dumped hurts at any age,

but the first time
hurts like hell,

and part of that is because
of a major imbalance

in your teenage brain.

Your limbic system is
pretty much fully grown,

so you feel strong
adult emotions

like love, desire, and
deep, bitter, burning rejection.

But your prefrontal cortex

that lets you put things
in perspective

and stops you doing rash things

still has years of growing
left to do.

[girls screaming]

It's the reason Romeo and Juliet
didn't end too well.

And it's probably also the
reason why in January 1969...

SERGEANT: Rodriguez.

ADAM: I enlisted in the Marines.

SERGEANT: Hartson!
ADAM: Sir.

ADAM: Knew I'd be going
to Vietnam,

but as I reported for nine weeks
of basic training,

honestly, I was excited.

SERGEANT: Seymour.

ADAM: New place, new experience,
new people.

I don't have a form for you.

What's your name, son?

FRANCIS: Sir, Francis Zito, sir.

Hey, squirt.

¶ ¶

SERGEANT: Eyes front!

ADAM: You have got to be
kidding me.

SERGEANT: Grab your gear,
get in that building.

Now, now, now!

Let's move it, let's move it,
let's move it, let's move it!

Too slow, too slow.

Let's go, go, go, go, go!


ADAM: January 1969,
Marine Corps training.

And if I was worried
about Francis Zito,

I was about to discover
I had bigger problems.

SERGEANT: Rise and shine!

Right, let's go!

Let's go, boys, let's go!

Put on your...

ADAM: You learn a lot
in basic training.

And you learn it...

Put your boots on, guys.

ADAM: ...on the run.

Put your boots on.

Run, run, run!

Let's move it, let's move it.

Go, go, go, go, go,
go, go, go, go!

ADAM: Now, I wasn't the biggest,
the fastest or the strongest,

but you don't have to be.

Oxygen and glucose
are what your muscles need

to keep them going.

SERGEANT: Let's go. Move it,
move it! Move it, move it!

ADAM: You breathe harder to get
more oxygen into your blood.

Your heart beats faster to get
that oxygen to your muscles,

where it gets burned with
glucose to create energy.

It's called aerobic respiration.

Age 18, your maximum heart rate

is just over
200 beats per minute,

so all 12 pints of your blood
can be pumped round your body

in around 18 seconds.

But after a while,
that's still not enough.

To keep you going,

your muscles switch to burning
glucose without oxygen,


which is fine for a while,

but anaerobic respiration

creates a byproduct
called lactic acid...

SERGEANT: Let's go,
let's go, let's go.

ADAM: ...which causes
that burning feeling

as your muscle fibers begin
to be ripped apart.

SERGEANT: Keep going.
You will not give up!

ADAM: Which sounds bad...

SERGEANT: You understand?

...but add a bit of this...

SERGEANT: Chow down!

ADAM: ...and that's actually
how you get stronger.

Protein repairs
your damaged muscles,

building bigger
and thicker fibers.

Carbs replace
the glucose you've lost,

allowing you to go out the next
day and do it all over again.

Let's go, let's go.

Too slow!

Let's see you run.

ADAM: Pretty soon I was
in the best shape of my life.

SERGEANT: Let's go,
let's go, maggots.

ADAM: So what to do with
physical perfection at age 18?

That's it, let's go.

ADAM: Take it for granted,
of course.



ADAM: Alcohol absorption
is immediate,

and your liver can only process
about one drink per hour.

ALL: Chug! Chug! Chug! Chug!

ADAM: Any more than that

and the alcohol goes directly
to your brain,

which can lead to slurred
speech, blurred vision...

Next time! Next time!

...and various types
of poor judgment.


When you're facing
imminent jungle warfare,

smoking doesn't seem
that serious.

But, of course, it is.


Cigarette smoke contains

something like 4,000
harmful chemicals

that paralyze the tiny hairs
that clean out your lungs.

Mucus and toxins build up,
your lungs get congested,

and the harmful chemicals
pour into your bloodstream.

Do this for long enough,
and one way or another,

there's a good chance
it'll be the end of you.


SERGEANT: What the hell
are you guys doing?!

ADAM: Maybe it was just because
we were a long way from home...

SERGEANT:, eight, come on...

ADAM: But Francis Zito,
my grade school nemesis,

actually became my friend.

SERGEANT: ...eight, nine.

ADAM: I forgave him for making
a year of my life a misery,

and he forgave me for putting
the school pet in his locker.

FRANCIS: You sneaky
son of a bitch. I...

SERGEANT: No more talking,
you maggots, you keep cutting!

Let's go.

ADAM: I wasn't exactly my
drill sergeant's favorite cadet.

as straight as you can stand?

ADAM: Sir, yes, sir!

I can't hear you.

ADAM: Sir, yes, sir!

ADAM: But with one week
till graduation,

I was a lean, mean
fighting machine.



SERGEANT: Rise and shine, boys,
rise and shine.

ADAM: Out of nowhere...

SERGEANT: Faster! Let's go, men.

Come on, guys.

ADAM: I don't feel so good.

Stand up straight.

What's wrong with you?

¶ The party's over now ¶

ADAM: Measles.

Never had them as a kid,

and I guess a few other guys
in my bunkhouse didn't either.

The measles virus
gets into your system

through close contact with
someone who already has it.

Once there, it shoves its way
inside your cells,

hijacking them and forcing them
to produce copies of itself

at a blistering rate.

That's what's going on
inside you

when you get a virus, any virus.

You're being hijacked
from the inside out.

T-cells are your body's
special forces,

sent in to figure out how
to attack the hijacked cells

and kill the virus inside;

and when they do,

they remember how they did it
for the next time.

So over a lifetime we develop
a whole army of memory T-cells

each designed to combat
a specific viral threat...

[coughing] theory.

Now, maybe it was the smoking
or maybe just bad luck,

but the virus took hold
in my lungs,

developing into
full-blown bronchopneumonia.

From peak physical condition, I
was reduced to a total invalid.

Coughed so much I thought
I was going to die.

And I guess
the Marine Corps did, too,

'cause when the rest of
my platoon departed for Vietnam,

I got handed a general discharge
on medical grounds.

That's one small step for man,

one giant leap for mankind.


ADAM: Man had made it
to the moon,

and before the end of the
decade, just like JFK promised.

I hadn't even made it
out of my bedroom.


¶ ¶

Turned out Francis Zito
was killed

just five weeks
into his tour of Vietnam.


Couldn't make sense of it.

Still can't, if I'm honest.

One twist of biological fate,

and he could have been
coughing his lungs up

watching Neil Armstrong

while I was catching a bullet
in the jungle.

I'd been given a second chance.

I just had to figure out
what to do with it.

¶ ¶

As the '70s began,
America was polarizing,

and it seemed like everyone
was choosing sides.

People have got to know

whether or not
their president's a crook.

Well, I'm not a crook.

ADAM: I wanted no part of it.

But all of a sudden,
I wasn't a kid anymore,

and the choices and chances
that would determine my life

were about to play out.

¶ ¶

¶ Caught between
now and a dream ¶

Looking back,
it all seems so inevitable.

But what if I hadn't wound up
in New York in 1975?

What if I hadn't been working
in that bar that night?

And what if she
hadn't walked in?


¶ ¶


ADAM: Beat 1,281,000,042.

When everything changed.


Can I get two rum and Cokes
and vodka tonic, please?

ADAM: Yeah, sure thing.
I'll bring them over to you.

ALICE: Thanks.

You've got something
on your shoe...


ADAM: Hey, pilgrim,
you got something on your shoe.


ADAM: Alice?


ALICE: Hi, Adam.
I thought that was you.

ADAM: Whoa.

Alice Kendall.

ALICE: Mm-hmm.

That was the stupidest thing
I ever saw.

ADAM: What are you doing
these days?

Do you live around here
or are you married or...?

ALICE: Uh, yeah.

Yeah, I live around here,
but, no, I'm not married.

And by the way...

it was the sweetest thing
I ever saw.

¶ ¶

¶ What is this? ¶

ADAM: Now, science will tell you

that there was a lot more
going on in that moment

than I realized.

¶ ¶

It will tell you that the beat
I felt my heart skip

was actually
a surge of adrenaline

acting on the sinoatrial node
that controls it.

¶ ¶

Science will go on to say that
I had subconsciously assessed

that Alice's full lips,
glossy hair,

and low waist-to-hip ratio
meant she was healthy, fertile,

and had a high probability
of future reproductive fitness.

¶ ¶

Well, science can take a walk
on this one.

What I'll tell you is
the smartest, funniest,

and most beautiful human being
I had ever met

was smiling at me,

and I never wanted her to stop.

I knew I needed to get serious,

so I quit the bar and
got my first real job--

apprentice welder fixing
subway trains for the city.

[tools whirring]

God, it was loud.

My ears would be ringing
for hours.

I didn't know it at the time,

but that ringing is
a cause for alarm.

Inside your cochlea, the tiny
hair cells that amplify sound

and send individual frequencies
to your brain

can be damaged by loud noises.

Once they're broken,

you'll never hear a peep
out of those hairs again.

But all I cared about
was getting home to Alice.

Now, this wasn't just fun.

There are actual
health benefits.

Hormones released during sex
reduce stress,

lower blood pressure
and boost immunity.


ADAM: Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh!

There's even a hormone that
raises your pain threshold.

¶ ¶


After orgasm,
other hormones are released

which make you feel
super relaxed

and also stimulate
your appetite,

so some people feel like this...

ALICE: Do you want to get
Chinese food?

ADAM: And other people...

¶ ¶

Hey, give me a break.


MINISTER: Do you, Alice,
take Adam...

ADAM: In 1979,
I raised my life expectancy

by approximately 2.5 years,
or as it's otherwise known...

MINISTER: you part?

ALICE: I do.

ADAM: married to
the girl of my dreams.

You might think, then,
that the minister saying...

MINISTER: I now pronounce you
man and wife.

You may kiss the bride.

ADAM: ...would have been
the most unforgettable thing

anyone said that day.

But like always,
Alice topped it.

ALICE: And by the way,
you're gonna be a dad.

ADAM: What?!

ALICE: Mm-hmm.

¶ ¶

ADAM: I got to tell you,
I was shocked.

And I didn't know
the half of it.

¶ ¶

Sometimes the race for life
has two winners,

and we called ours Amy...

and Francis.

[baby sneezes]

ALICE: Oh, bless you.


ADAM: Holding the twins,
I never felt anything like it.

Alice and me had fulfilled
our biological purpose.

The coded message in our DNA

handed down through countless
generations had been passed on.

All we had to do was
look after them

until they were ready to pass
that message on again.


And that's the hard part.

Bigger family meant
a bigger house and bigger debt,

which meant more hours
and less sleep.

To top it all off,

I enrolled in night school
on a degree program.

RONALD REAGAN: I, Ronald Reagan,
do solemnly swear

that I will faithfully execute

the office of President
of the United States.

ADAM: If a TV cowboy
could be president,

I figured the sky was the limit.

Kids, work, study, bills.

I swear, from that moment on,

it seemed like someone
pressed fast forward.

[rockets roaring]

¶ ¶

As you move through
your 30s, though,

cellular replication
and repair are slowing.

¶ ¶

So some parts of you,
like your eyes, for example,

begin to show their age.

But of course, where vision is
concerned, there's an easy fix.


ALICE: They look good.

ADAM: For all of three seconds

it was great to see
clearly again.

Beat 1,800,046,012.

My first gray hair.

Hair color is determined
by the amount of melanin

injected into your follicles.

As you get older,
you produce less melanin,

and individual follicles
stop injecting it

in the hairs they produce.

Given your scalp has between
100,000 and 150,000 hairs

at any one time,

a few gray ones shouldn't
cause too much upset.

And at first, of course, there's
an easy fix for them, too.

¶ ¶

REPORTER: The Berlin Wall

on the west side
of the Brandenburg Gate,

I'm John Miller.

ADAM: In 1989 I finally got
my evenings back,

graduating night school

with a bachelor's degree
in structural engineering.

REPORTER: The wall is being
physically torn down.

Both German citizens
and soldiers

are taking their hammers
and chisels to the wall...

[phone rings]

ALICE: You know,
now that you're certified,

maybe they'll let you
put it back up.

REPORTER:'re witnessing
tonight a moment in history

is what you're seeing
and hearing

is thousands of Berliners,
East and West, dancing...

ADAM: Hello?

Hey, Mom.

Are you watching this?

REPORTER: they come together

to celebrate the end here.

ADAM: What is it?


Oh, no.

That call was the start
of the worst year of my life.


[bells tolling]

ADAM: November 1989,
my father died.

You know deep down it's going to
happen someday, you know it,

but then it happens,

and nothing can prepare you
for the shock of it.

MINISTER: And in closing,

Adam and Alice wanted me
to let you all know

that after the burial service...

ADAM: A year later, it was Mom.

MINISTER: And of course,

you're all more than welcome
to join us.

ADAM: They said it was
heart failure,

but honestly, I think she died
of a broken heart.

Sudden bereavement raises
cortisol levels in the body

for an average of six months
after the event.

If you're not in the best
of health, like Mom wasn't,

then the effect
can be devastating.

ALICE: You okay?

ADAM: I just keep thinking about

all the things that
they gave me.


I thought I could
pay them back one day.

ALICE: You know, I don't know if
you're supposed to pay it back.

I think you pay it forward.

And I think they knew that.

¶ ¶

ADAM: So, a year on,
this was me paying it forward.

And for a guy of 40,
I felt pretty good.

Still run rings around the kids
in the front yard.

AMY: Yeah!


ADAM: That's it.

Yeah, well, Amy is a cheat.

Don't let anybody tell you


High fives for everybody!

[children yelling]

The 1990s had begun, and
the old certainties were gone.

America was facing new
challenges and new threats...

and so was I.

¶ I want to drive you
till sunrise ¶

¶ And drive you
into the moonlight ¶

On the surface,
things were good.

Instead of fixing subway trains,
I was riding them to my new job.

¶ ¶

But inside, my body was
beginning to travel

in the wrong direction.

In a single day,
to keep you going,

the gallon and a half of blood
in your veins

has to travel
an astonishing 12,000 miles--

four times the distance
across the United States

from coast to coast.

Smooth, flexible arteries
are a key part of that,

but from around age 20,
they get progressively stiffer.

It's nothing to worry about
on its own.

It's only a problem
if we do other things

to make that journey
more difficult.

¶ ¶

And, of course, I was too busy
to think about it...

so I did.

Bad diet can become
a vicious circle.

Fatty foods and sugar are
instant sources of energy,

so you're programmed
to like them.

The taste activates
your brain's reward system,

the same dopamine pathways

as drugs, alcohol
or teenage infatuation,

which make you seek out more,
like an addiction.

Yeah, no, that would work.

Correction, it is an addiction.

¶ ¶

So you get fatter, and not just
where you can see it.

Visceral fat builds up
around your heart,

and bad cholesterol begins
to stick to the interior

of your already hardening

making them narrower as well.

It's called atherosclerosis,
and it's a problem.

It means the blood's journey
around the body

gets a little more pressured.

[bell ringing]

Sugar also causes
a chemical reaction

that begins to break down
the collagen and elastin

that give your skin
its stretch and structure.

You get crow's feet, and your
worry lines become permanent.

Over time, all those things
together have quite an effect.

¶ ¶

Before I knew it,

my two billionth heartbeat
was long gone,

and the 20th century
was history.

Five, four, three, two, one.


ADAM: I was 50 years old,

and I'd been pushing my body too
hard and too far for too long.

It all came to a head
on my first vacation in years.

This was a good idea.

ADAM: Thanks.

ADAM: Three days
before my 51st birthday.

How long do you need?

ALICE: About ten minutes.

ADAM: Okay.

I guess I don't have
to tell you the date.

BROADCASTER: continuous
coverage of a plane crash

into the World Trade Center
this morning...

ADAM: Oh, my God.
Alice, take a look at this.

[overlapping reporter

ALICE: Oh, my God, that's
12 blocks away from Amy's work.

REPORTER: determine
exactly the cause...

ALICE: Oh! Oh.

REPORTER: Alright, Karl.

REPORTER: That was
a second plane that just...

ADAM: Okay, you call Amy,
I'll call the boys.

[overlapping reporter

Hormones released
in response to shock

can lead to pieces of plaque

built up by atherosclerosis

causing a wound
in your arterial wall.

Blood quickly clots
at the site of the rupture.

If this happens to you,

the first thing
you're likely to notice

is a dull pain in your back...

ALICE: in.

Hello? Hello?

ADAM: ...which spreads
to your jaw,

then a tingling sensation
in your left hand.

As it turned out, the clot was
in my left main coronary artery,

and it stopped my blood
in its tracks.

ALICE: Adam!


ALICE: Adam!

ADAM: This condition
has a nickname.

ALICE: Breathe.
I'm gonna get you help.


I'm gonna get you help.


ADAM: They call it
a widow-maker.

ADAM: So that's how I died,
at the age of 50.

Wait, that can't be right.

Ah, that's it.

That was how I died,

and this was how they brought me
back to life.

[monitor beeping]

You see, lucky for me, there was
a doctor staying at the hotel.

DOCTOR: Adam, can you hear me?

ADAM: He performed CPR
for nearly half an hour

until the ambulance
finally got there.

DOCTOR: Adam, can you hear me?

ADAM: Your chance of survival
falls 10%

with every minute
that you don't get CPR

after sudden cardiac arrest.

So I quite literally
owe him my life.

[monitor beeping]

And this man with his hands
in my chest

is the other man
I owe my life to.

DOCTOR: Bit more.

ADAM: Later on, he was
kind enough to fill me in

on what he did to me.

DOCTOR: First off, we put
a stent into your artery,

a mesh tube to keep
the artery open.

¶ ¶

Then we repaired the damage
to your mitral valve

caused by the heart attack...

¶ ¶

and then we restarted
your heart.



[monitor beeping]


ADAM: The amazing thing was,
even after all that trauma,

in that instant my heart
went right back to doing

what it always had done--

pumping my blood
and keeping me alive.

¶ ¶

The rest of me
took a while longer.


ALICE: The hospital.

You've had an operation,
but you're okay.

¶ ¶

ADAM: Oh, God.

I'm so sorry.

ALICE: Oh...


ADAM: Having a major
heart attack hurts.

Realizing it's all
your own fault hurts worse.

Apparently, heart disease
strikes someone in the US

about once every 43 seconds,

and every year
around 735,000 Americans

will have a heart attack.

More than 90% of those
are preventable.

Six weeks later,
we got back to New York.

The hole in the skyline
was truly a shock.


I read later that
the psychological stress

surrounding 9/11 triggered up to
a third more cardiac events

in some places in the months
following the attacks.

So as America came to terms
with ground zero,

I came to terms
with a new reality, too.


ALICE: Do you think you could
walk from here to the mall

in under five minutes?

ADAM: Why?

ALICE: It says here,
'The amount of energy required

to perform intercourse with
a spouse or regular partner

is similar to walking about
one half mile at a brisk pace.'

ADAM: Oh! Ow!

Stop. Don't make me laugh.

ALICE: I'm just saying
keep me posted is all.

ADAM: Ow! Stop, stop, stop.

When you're looking
to change your life,

I guess there's nothing like
having an incentive.

So when the rest of me
finally healed up,

I set out to do
something about it.

¶ Take what I want,
want what I take ¶

Three miles a day!

Half an hour out of my schedule,
and I felt better every time.

¶ ¶

And I wasn't just running off
the spare tire around my middle.

Every single stride
was also running off

the visceral fat
surrounding my heart.

BARACK OBAMA: Yes we can.


Yes we can.


Yes we can.

¶ Take me away, take me away ¶

ADAM: Before my heart attack,

I was always running
to stand still,

never had time for anything.

Now work took a back seat and
I actually got to enjoy things.

OBAMA: Yes we can.

ALICE: This here, that's it.

ADAM: Alice and me
took up dancing.

ALICE: Okay? One, two, three...

ADAM: And it didn't matter
that we were horrible at it.

No, you screwed up.

ALICE: No, that was wrong.

ADAM: You're supposed
to be the expert.

The point is we were dancing.

ALICE: Cha-cha-cha,
one, two, good.

ADAM: Okay.



¶ ¶

DOCTOR: Just breathe normally.

ADAM: None of us can
turn back the clock.

DOCTOR: Good, good. And
in and out through your mouth.

ADAM: But in biological terms,

we can sure slow it down
a little.

DOCTOR: Good, and again.

ADAM: When I was 51, my doctor
had calculated my biological age

as nearly 60.

At 66, it was...


That's quite the turnaround.

ADAM: 62?!

DOCTOR: You can button up.

on the retirement, by the way.

ADAM: Thank you.

DOCTOR: So what's next?

ADAM: It was a good question.

Thanks to my fitness drive

and continuing advances
in medical science,

as my three billionth beat
ticked over,

there was still
plenty of life to come.

OBAMA: I believe we can send
humans to orbit Mars

and return them safely to Earth.


ADAM: And there was no denying
we were headed

for uncharted territory.

So what was next?

Ah, I don't know.

I guess I'll find out.


¶ ¶

ADAM: No more work meant
no need to live in the city,

so we bought the holiday cottage
we used to rent.

Oh, I just thought of something.

ALICE: What?

ADAM: It's an awfully long walk
to the mall from here.


ALICE: What, right now?

ADAM: Yeah, let's go in.
Let's try it out.

ALICE: I have a better idea.

ADAM: What, out here?


ADAM: Come on.

Just because
you're a senior citizen

doesn't mean you can't still
rise to the occasional occasion.


In fact, studies show
that people over 70

are more content than
at any other time of life.

ALICE: Oh, it was so much fun.
Off you get.

ADAM: And there's no
greater pleasure

than seeing the children
you raised

raise children of their own.


That was great.

ADAM: Especially when
they take them home again.

ALICE: Bye-bye!

ADAM: Bye, kids.

ALICE: See you!

¶ ¶

ADAM: Hey, hear that?

ALICE: Yeah. Our song.

ADAM: Our song.

Aww, let's do a little dance.


¶ ¶

ADAM: Ah, where did
the last 50 years go?

ALICE: Well, I guess time flies
when you're having fun.


ADAM: Come on, let's go inside.

ALICE: Yeah.

ADAM: No one can win
the war against aging,

but you don't have to go down
without a fight.

Cycling was my weapon of choice.


ALICE: Do you really
need the helmet?

ADAM: Come on.

It's sexy!

ALICE: Oh, you old thing.

ADAM: Other things, though,
you just have to accept.

The collagen and elastin

that gave my skin its stretch
and structure

are all bent out of shape,

so my skin has been collapsing
like a facial Grand Canyon.

Looking in the mirror,

I hardly recognize the person
looking back.

And sometimes what I see
scares me.

ALICE: You really should get
that mole looked at.

ADAM: Yeah, I think I will.

¶ ¶

DOCTOR: It's cancer.


Melanoma, to be precise.

Apparently, the damage
had been done years before--

UV light from the sun
or from welding,

or from who knows where?

A moment 50, 60, 70 years before
caused a mutation

that had been slowly replicating
ever since.

DOCTOR: But I'm pretty sure
we caught it in time.

ADAM: I see.

Sure, things go wrong,

but modern medicine
has a lot of answers.

They cut that melanoma out
and another two as well,

and cancer hasn't
bothered me since.


¶ ¶

Whoever said growing old
is not for sissies nailed it.

But the truth is we're aging
from before we're even born.

From when the first cells
multiplied and made new cells,

little defects
have been creeping in.

¶ ¶

85 years on, and your body
can't keep up the process

of renew and repair.

Muscle and bone are broken down

faster than they
can be replaced...

so your whole frame changes.

I'm an inch and a half
shorter now,

shoulders starting to hunch.

Stairs are a pain,
but I take my time,

and I'd climb almost anything
if Alice was at the top.

It's getting late.
We should get some sleep.

ALICE: I love you.

ADAM: And I love you.




ADAM: There's something

about growing old with someone.

Something that, frankly,
amazes me.

As we lie here in bed,

our nervous systems begin
mimicking each other.


Heartbeats rising
and falling together,

striving seemingly

to fall into sync.

I don't think anyone yet knows
exactly how it happens,

but Alice and me are together
right to the heart.

¶ ¶

60 years since our wedding,
and I sleep soundly

knowing we've kept all the vows
we made that day.

All but the last one.

That always seemed so distant.

Till death do us part.


ADAM: The older you get,
the more time flies.

¶ ¶

...a beauty all its own.

ADAM: But stick around
long enough,

and you'll get to see things you
barely dreamed of come to pass.

[radio chatter]


Can you believe this?



¶ ¶

And it's not just
the things you see.

Live to my age, and your heart
will have successfully pumped

more than 50 million
gallons of blood

through almost 400 million miles
of blood vessels.

Mankind may have
made it to Mars,

but my old heart has pumped
my blood as far as Jupiter,

and I'm not done yet.

¶ ¶

There's plenty to celebrate,

even if sometimes in big groups
it's a little hard to keep up.

The damaged hair cells
in your inner ear,

beaten up by a lifetime
of vibrations,

mean that bit by bit, the world
sounds a little further away.

[muffled conversations]


But I prefer to think about
what my body has done

and what it can still do, rather
than whine about what it can't.



Thank you for coming today.

I feel blessed for
having you all here.

I've had a good life,
a long life,

longer than I could ever
have imagined.

But I did a bit of math

and I would like
to share it with you.

It turns out I've drunk more
than 20,000 gallons of liquid

and eaten 70 tons of food,

blinked more than
900 million blinks,

slept for more than
a quarter of a century.

And, of course, lived through
four billion heartbeats.


But as amazing
as I find these numbers,

like the candles on this cake,

they're just numbers.

The truth is the things that
really count can't be counted--






and joy.

So for those things,
I want to thank you all,

and I'd like to raise a glass.

To life!
It's one hell of a ride.

ALL: To life.


ADAM: Now, are we going to cut
this cake or just look at it?

¶ ¶

ADAM: Four billion heartbeats.

How many more to come?

Who knows?

But just as sure
as there was a first beat,

someday for certain
there will be a last.


When that last beat comes...

¶ ¶

[quiet rumble] death will begin.

My lungs will rise and fall
one last time.

¶ ¶

My blood will stop circulating.

¶ ¶

One by one, my major organs
will close down.

¶ ¶

But then, for a few seconds,

they tell me I'll have
brain activity

associated with heightened
states of consciousness.

I wonder what I'll see.

¶ ¶

Ours is the journey
of a lifetime,

a transformation
beyond imagination

against odds
no gambler would take...

a living, breathing miracle...

just like billions of miracles
that came before

and billions more to come

on the path we all travel...

from cradle to grave.

[people chatting]

But that's not today.

And till that day comes,

I'll keep on living, laughing
and loving as best I can,

just like I've always done.

And that's what I've learned
in all my years.

Use it, live it, enjoy it,

'cause you never know how long
you're going to...