Watching the Women’s 63kg final, we can’t help wondering at their lycra-clad mysteries

Science Laboratory, by Dr Julian Cook
There has been much controversy around the skimpy outfits worn by some of the Olympic sportswomen.

Black holes love protein drinks

It’s become clear that many people are only buying tickets to ogle at their remarkable contours and it’s sad they ignore the true sportsmanship of these astonishing athletes. With their great strength and charming ponytails, the women’s weightlifting competitors have especially sparked the world’s imagination.

It’s this that they have in common with the super-massive black hole at the centre of our galaxy. Like everyone in the front rows of the Women’s 63kg final, we can’t help wondering at their lycra-clad mysteries. Any truly intrepid scientist would jump at the chance to go in and have a good old rummage around.

There was a lot of speculation about cosmic cavities as we watched the captivating Maiya Maneza clinch gold for Kazakhstan in the women’s 63kg. From bitter experience, none of us really wanted to ask challenging physics questions of a lady who’s spent all day doing backbreaking work. Plus, she’s a big girl with hands that could rip your jaw off as though it were a cheap cravat. Fortunately I drew a long straw so my Olympic journey ended there.

But Maiya Maneza is a pussycat compared with the girls competing in the 75kg. She also has this in common with the black hole at the centre of our galaxy. There are plenty more ferocious beasts out there in the depths of space, incessantly grunting at us using complex soundwaves 57 octaves lower than middle C. Take supermassive black holes NGC 3842 or NGC 4889. These behemoths approach the highest alert level in the universe, commonly referred to by astrophysicists as mark ‘Sharapova’.

If I’ve learned anything from working with NASA and the Olympics, it’s that we need to show impossibly strong women and black holes more respect. It was wrong of The New York Times to put the US weightlifting colossus, Holley Mangold in a blouse and make-up to show how vacuous and silly she actually is. We wouldn’t put dangly earrings and a coating of coral lip gloss on our black hole, so why do it to Holley?