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Hesitant hottie
Why, Professor Manga . you're beautiful!

| 02 December 2005


Michael Manga (Bonnie Azab Powell photo)
Michael Manga, an associate professor in earth and planetary sciences and a MacArthur Fellow, is accustomed to recognition. It's being ogled by shoppers in grocery checkout lines that makes him a tad uneasy.

That explains why he told his wife, Berkeley librarian Susan Storch, that People magazine had contacted him because he'd won the MacArthur in September. Storch only learned the truth from her mother, who spotted her son-in-law's likeness while thumbing through the glossy rag's Nov. 28 edition at her local supermarket. The MacArthur "genius," it turned out, had made the pages of People not for the light he sheds on the cosmos, but for sheer body heat.

Manga appears in People's "Sexiest Man Alive" issue, its annual hunk homage, below another "smart guy," U2 frontman Bono, and shares the issue's many, many pages with fellow hotties Matthew McConaughey, Jake Gyllenhaal, Johnny Depp, Brad Pitt, Antonio Banderas, George Clooney, and Orlando Bloom, among others.


Manga's wife "laughed for an hour" when her husband told her he was going to be in America's favorite celebrity rag. "He just isn't a People magazine kind of guy," she says.
Manga, who's worn his hair in a ponytail since he was 18, was one of only two men in academia admitted to the ranks of America's dreamiest dudes. "That's why I agreed to do this," he explains, somewhat sheepishly. "I wanted to get information out to people who wouldn't normally hear or see anything about science." A brief explanation of Manga's work on volcanic hot spots is indeed included, though the words can't hold a candle to his smoking-hot photo.

Manga, who speculates that he came to People's attention after winning the MacArthur, insists that neither honor has changed his life. "I still get to change diapers, cook, vacuum, and scrub the tub and toilets," confesses the father of two.

The scientist, who out of loyalty to the campus acceded to our request for facetime and a photo, is not exactly thrilled about his 15 minutes of sexy-man fame. "The MacArthur is so much better," he says. "The nice thing about being at Berkeley is that no one reads People, so no one knows about this - yet. And that's the way it should be. It's kind of embarrassing in a way, because it's not how I perceive myself."

Sorry, professor - your cover is blown.