Monday, November 2, 2009

Body Worlds is the Science of Cadavers

Halloween weekend, what better time to go see preserved corpses on display with their internal organs on the wrong side of their skin?

My ex-girlfriend, and still good friend, Amanda and I took a jaunt up to Orillia this last weekend with the idea to treat her friend's family to a trip to the touring Body Worlds display at the Ontario Science Centre.  In all fairness this was Amanda's idea, I personally had the idea to sleep in and eat candy.  Her idea was a sound one, however, and I was interested in checking out the exhibit and the rest of the Centre.  Then I found out these were real people's bodies entombed in plastic polymer and got grossed out.

Let me tell you, in person, it is still a bit unsettling.  Perhaps most unsettling is how blasé you become in regards to a human body sans connective tissue doing an inverted bicycle spin while split into 3 parts vertically by the end of the long-ish exhibit.  At first, the various bodies and organs are fascinating, with lots of little cards laden with interesting facts.  Sure I knew a lot of it from textbook Biology in high school but there is something so much more real about, well, reality.  While certainly instructive I had to wonder at the bizarre inventiveness of the the exhibit designers and whether the poses were a way to sensationalize a rather simple discovery.

The discovery I mention is the science/art/patented process of Plastination.  This is a very marketable name for the act of submerging a previously living organism in an acetone bath and then a liquid polymer bath and applying a vacuum at each step, thus forcing the polymer into the tissues of the subject and preserving them.  Okay, I'll admit it was a very good idea and has allowed a versatile and stable form of anatomy preservation and makes a fine teaching aid.  I don't know how well it fits as a travelling exhibit, at least in it's current form.  I'd say you could cut it down by a third in size and one may experience a little less cadaver overload.

The rest of the science centre was very interesting with a lot of fun hands on activities to entertain and inform.  If you have kids with you, and intend on seeing the Body Worlds exhibit, the ones that were with us (of whom several were younger) seemed to find it interesting but doing that exhibit first is a wise move.  I can't imagine them finding the bodies interesting for long enough to see the whole thing if they knew there was lots of fun buttons to push and wheels to turn just down the hall.  Also be forewarned the Planetarium has limited scheduled shows and you'll want to check on the times so you don't miss it - we did.

The rest of the trip involved a pleasant stop over at my Dad's up in Orillia where I checked out his new laptop and regaled him with my interminable opinions and vehemencies.  That night I finished reading Salems Lot after mon pere turned in, the Dark Tower grows in stature with each Stephen King read I complete.  I also managed a visit with my good friend Jim down in Barrie where we played some video games and watched a movie of sufficiently creepy nature.  The movie in question is well worth it if you like being scared of things that go BUMP in the night.

To all that I visited and to Amanda for sponsoring the journey, my thanks for a fun and memorable Halloween '09.

1 comment:

  1. I remember this exhibit came to Toronto a few years ago and my friends were going. I was prewarned that these bodies were real and said no thank you! However, when I saw the billboards for it this year I was thinking maybe it's worth a peek. I might check it out myself.

    p.s. Thanks for checking out my blog. :)