BODIES, bodies everywhere

Washington, D.C.

A bunch of us had an opportunity this weekend to visit BODIES, a controversial traveling exhibit currently on display at the Rosslyn Dome in Arlington. It features unclaimed human bodies (from China) that are preserved through a process called polymer preservation, in which body fluids are removed and replaced with liquid silicone rubber. The results are fascinating. Here are the basics of what I learned:

  • Smoking is bad. One display featured two lungs, that of a healthy individual and that of a smoker. The latter was blackened and probably one-third the size of the healthy one. Underneath a placard stating that each pack of cigarettes cuts 2.5 hours from your life, a plexi-glass box was filled with discarded packs and lighters from those in attendance.
  • Skin is the body’s largest organ. To demonstrate this, a display showed a single piece of flattened skin from one body. It was pretty amazing to look at.
  • Our digestive system is long. Another display showed an entire human digestive system, from mouth to anus. Seeing it all like that, in one place, helped demonstrate the extraordinary ability of our body to coordinate complex processes.
  • Babies grow fast. An optional part of the exhibit showed the development of fetuses, starting as something the size of a pencil’s eraser and then doubling in size every week or so.
  • Testicles aren’t kidneys. As one astute observer – who had a little difficulty identifying parts of the human anatomy – learned, those things hanging below the stomach are part of the male reproductive system.

This isn’t anything like you’ve seen before. A doctor with us said she hadn’t even see the body presented in such a way during med school.

And if that’s not an endorsement, I’m not sure what is.

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