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For Popular Science, Andre Rucker
Allow us to inspire you with these musculoscientific tales.
Edited by Annie Colbert
The 22nd of June, 2023, 9:27 PM EDT ReleaseIt’s me, Hans. Also, my name is Franz. And we hope to give you a boost.”
That’s a reference to an SNL skit from the ’90s, so yes, it’s been three decades. Almost everything I take in is filtered through my knowledge of pop culture, and odd pieces of my past are erased. I blame my youth diet of Saturday morning cartoons and a Sunday night rush to see Alf with my sibling at the theatre. When the editors at Popular Science started talking about a “Muscle” aesthetic, a mental image of Dana Carvey and Kevin Nealon bulking up in grey sweats sprung into my head and had to be erased.
A time when ripped muscles were all the rage was well captured in this parody. My elementary school’s gymnasium was greeted by a poster of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Hans and Franz’s idol: “I desire YOU!” Determined to Get in Shape.” We internalised this restricted interpretation of strength as a cultural norm.
In the summer 2023 issue of PopSci, we went beyond the stereotypically large muscles of the 1980s fitness ideal to examine what it means to be truly effective. Although Laura Baisas did not find any evidence of elliptical-using falcons, she did investigate the pizza-stealing gulls who prey on tourists along Ocean City’s famous boardwalk. By highlighting the savage allure of meat-eating plants, Ali Blumenthal takes us on a journey into the realm of plant-based predators. To get an up-close look at the massive plane engines that propel planes through the air, Christopher Payne travelled to rural Ohio. Erica Gies travels to Arizona to learn more about the “slow-water movement,” which uses proven Indigenous techniques to control flooding and drought. Kenneth Rosen spins a tale about how a Mars rover mission may have been derailed if not for a decision made by European Space Agency engineers in the midst of Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine.
We do spend time with Urmi Bhattacheryya in the weight room as she uses strength training to manage the pain of fibromyalgia. Included in it is Rachel Feltman’s analysis of sexy shoes and an in-depth Ask USA. Everything you need to know to be in shape, from what to drink before a workout to how to ease the pain of sore muscles with pasta.
For my debut issue as PopSci’s editor-in-chief, the muscular design was a natural choice. I witnessed the power of a newsroom determined to push the boundaries of its storytelling ability in order to produce engaging checking out. Now that I’m warmed up, I know you’ll be ready for whatever comes next without breaking a sweat.
Read up on some tales in PopSci+.