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In the Picture: Working Out in Ukraine, Cybernetics, and Hygienic Recommendations

In every issue, we fix our gaze on an everyday photograph and chase down facts about details in the frame.
(Photo: Kirill Golovchenko)

(Photo: Kirill Golovchenko)

  • In the early 1970s, the Polish gymnast Kasmir Jagelsky and the cybernetic engineer Yuri Kuk opened the Kachalka gym in Ukraine, free to the public, with equipment made from scrap metal and vehicle parts.
  • The field of cybernetics, which originally encompassed the broad study of animal and machine systems, took off in the 1940s. From it sprang the concepts of cyberspace, cyberpunk, cyberwar, and artificial intelligence.
  • Machines for exercise were popularized by Swedish physician Gustav Zander in the late 19th century, and were initially marketed as a luxury item to the growing class of American white-collar workers.
  • Kachalka (from the Ukrainian word kachat, "to pump") is located in Kiev, on an island in the Dnieper River. The BBC estimated that 800,000 protesters filled the streets around Independence Square, in the district just west of Kachalka, at the peak of the recent "Euromaidan" uprising.
  • While most Ukrainians are bilingual, westerners generally speak Ukrainian; easterners generally prefer Russian. Kiev, in the middle, is a mix. Until the Orange Revolution of 2004, the country voted largely along ideological lines; increasingly, voting splits along geographic lines.
  • In 1973, a Soviet sports committee imposed strict regulations on bodybuilding (as well as yoga, bridge, and women’s soccer) to prevent the sport from becoming an outlet for Western-style exhibitionism and narcissism.
  • An article that year in the committee’s monthly journal declared that sports were to be organized “in accordance with scientific, medical, and hygienic recommendations, thus precluding all manner of contests and exhibitions that include posing and the judging of the body.”
  • A 2013 survey of bodybuilders found more than 40 percent suffer from muscle dysmorphia, informally known as bigorexia, a pathological preoccupation with feeling insufficiently muscular.
  • Since Hasbro introduced the character in the mid-1960s, the biceps of successive generations of G.I. Joe dolls have grown by almost a third. Added together, the circumference of the doll’s biceps exceeded its waist size by the early 1990s.
  • George Friedman, the American political scientist and founder and CEO of the private intelligence corporation Stratfor, observed last year that “from 1914 until 1945, Ukraine was as close to hell as one can reach in this life.”

*Compiled by Michael Fitzgerald.

This post originally appeared in the July/August 2014 print issue ofPacific Standardas “In the Picture.” Subscribe to our bimonthly magazine for more coverage of the science of society.