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Quick Post: Body Worlds

·409 words·2 mins
Articles Biology Culture Personal
Daniel Andrlik
Daniel Andrlik
Daniel Andrlik lives in the suburbs of Philadelphia. By day he manages product teams. The rest of the time he is a podcast host and producer, writer of speculative fiction, a rabid reader, and a programmer.

This weekend I went to the Body Worlds exhibit at The Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. It was one of the most amazing things I have ever seen.

For those of you unfamiliar with this particular exhibition, Body Worlds is the brainchild of anatomist Gunther von Hagens, who developed a process called plastination, that allows him to preserve bodies and tissues by replacing water and fat with certain types of plastics. The end result is that the specimens do not smell or decay, allowing detailed study for an extended period of time. Body Worlds is a series of traveling museum exhibitions of primarily human bodies that have been plastinated in such a way to reveal their anatomical structure and thus highlight how the body functions. In most cases, the skin has been removed to reveal the musculature underneath, and in many cases different parts of the body are opened or removed in order to expose or illustrate a particular function. In more extreme examples, the plastinate is reduced to a single system, such as showing just the nervous system or just the vascular system. More dramatic cross-sections also appear to better demonstrate how everything in the body goes together.

I am fascinated by biology and anatomy in particular, and quite happily spent two hours wandering through the exhibit. I was enthralled with getting an opportunity to see the human body up close in this way, being able to see the complex striations and texture of muscle tissue and how the flesh differs in the various parts of our body. It was also a treat to see the brain and nervous system up close, and how they connect to the rest of the structure that is the human form. It is funny how we have a tendency to hold an image of the brain as being far larger than it actually is, such that it is a bit of a surprise when you actually see an open skull. You look at the exposed brain and think, “Wow, that’s it? It’s so small!"

There are three roving exhibitions at the moment, and as I understand it there are plans for even more. Currently they are in Chicago, Dallas and Phoenix, and you can always find out where they are going next at the official site. If it comes near you, don’t miss the opportunity to go. It is really one of the most incredible things you will ever see.


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