We Will Not Get Bigger, We Will Not Get Faster – Info Gadgets
The human body consists of 7,000 trillion trillion atoms, which comprise 206 bones, 640 muscles, and some 100,000 miles of blood vessels that support a more or less set number of arms and legs, fingers and toes, kidneys and lungs. These make it a “finite organism,” wrote Berthelot last year, constrained by “functional boundaries at every level of organization.”
For most of history, human achievement was tested by pushing this configuration to its limits. And given how little we knew about training, nutrition, and sports psychology, there was a lot of room for improvement. People got bigger and stronger, training regimens became more effective, and with each generation of athletes, people discovered new reserves of strength for jumping, running, and throwing things.
They also discovered a significant new motivation for getting better. Namely: money.
It wasn’t until about the middle of the 20th century that professional athletics began in earnest, Berthelot says. With serious cash on the line, a once-recreational pursuit became a legitimate opportunity for a financial security. “There was a dramatic turning point after World War II,” he says. “The fact that you use money to motivate is a strategy for increasing performance at the world scale.”
Over the years, the prize pool has grown. In his book The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance, David Epstein explains that by 1975, professional athletes in major American sports like football, baseball, and basketball received salaries about five times as big as the median American man’s. Today, salaries in those sports stand between 40 and 100 times the median salary.
Track-and-field athletes don’t earn as much as NBA players, but for the poor countries that churn out the fastest runners, the cash prizes are still potentially life-changing. A major marathon victory could net a six-figure reward, while the per-capita income in Kenya and Ethiopia, which together hold every one of the 50 fastest marathon times, is $1,508 and $762, respectively.
Right on the heels of professional athletics came a second trend that appears to have added a momentous push toward our current athletic peak: We became incredibly good at identifying the specific body types that perform best within each sport.
Before the rise of big cash payouts, the ideal athlete was thought to possess a body that was “well-rounded, or average,” writes Epstein. “Not too tall or too small, neither too skinny nor too bulky, but rather a just-right Goldilocks-porridge version of a man. (And it was only men.)” That body type essentially held for all sports, which is why for a long time, say, professional baseball players, runners, and swimmers all looked about the same.
Through the development of vaccines, improvements in medicine, and a better understanding of hygiene and nutrition, we’ve maxed out the potential of the 20,000 to 25,000 protein-coding genes contained within each of our cells.
In decades past, however, average Joe athletes have been ousted by those whose bodies appear custom-built to vanquish opponents and shatter records. Runners came to have longer legs and lightweight appendages, while swimmers grew supersized torsos and arms that unfurled like eagle wings. Recent decades have given us both beefier football lineman and taller NBA players. Data collected by researchers at the University of South Australia indicate that in 1946, there were zero seven-foot-tall pro basketball players. Today, recruiters actively seek these giants, and by combining NBA measurements with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s height data, Epstein determined that for all seven-foot-tall men ages 24 to 40, 17 percent are currently playing professional basketball. “Find six honest seven-footers, and one will be in the NBA,” he writes.
We’ve also discovered which specific populations tend to fare best. For certain sports, we’ve become so good at identifying talent that we know exactly where to look for the next champion. For sprinters, it’s Jamaica, which claims 30 of the 50 fastest 100-meter finishes in history. The other 20 are held by the United States, which recruits from a population that’s more than 100 times bigger.
Article Prepared by Ollala Corp