Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Diminutive Campuses and Mortal Remains

My youngest sister registered for her freshman year of college classes today, and we joined her in time to go on a campus tour. It brought back some nostalgia of the college experience, but I know she's intimidated to start anew with friendships. She knows one upperclassmen, but it's a small campus, and she's my sister, so she'll do fine. I anticipate the stories that will be relayed to me starting next fall.

Later that evening, since our townhome owners are trying to find new tenants, we evacuated for yet another showing. The Science Museum of Minnesota had an exhibit we were interested in seeing, so we took this opportunity to drag my older sister there with us. With her degree in biological pre-med illustrations, she was intrigued. The exhibit was called Body Worlds, and featured actual human bodies in posed states, as well as separate cases with specific bones and organs. They have a process of plastination to prepare the bodies, and if you're interested, you can click on the link I've provided. Be forewarned: weak stomachs should not indulge; on the home page, they have a couple images that are on other touring exhibits, one of which is a man, his muscular system exposed, holding his skin at arm's length.

Some of the exhibits were fascinating, like the cuts taken from a 120-pound and a 300-pound individual. The obese one had died when his heart finally gave out, and it was no wonder when you saw how the excess fat surrounded all the organs. Examples were also of healthy and smoker's lungs, as well as what livers looked like with excessive drinking and what spleens looked like when attacked by leukemia. There was a spine of someone with an aggressive genetic trait that caused it to curl into the shape of an S and examples of heart valves and hip and knee replacements.

I'm sure you can remember instances where you saw the various systems of the human body on overlays in a book, but this caused everyone to really pause and marvel at how all the systems worked and how intricate the human body is. It was even interesting to see how many blood vessels are in chickens and birds and be able to physically see the muscles of athletic people posed with a basketball or a male in a figure-skating pose holding a woman aloft with one hand while she balanced on her back. The hardest exhibit for me was the woman who suffered from a terminal illness and passed away when she was two weeks away from giving birth to her child, and they were unable to save the child in time. They had the woman reclining, with her stomach bare so you could see the child curled in her womb. Quite sobering. And yet, it reminded me again of how women's bodies are created with the ability to bear children and how they adapt as the body grows inside. Bodies are so complex.

We spent two hours going through the exhibit before venturing to the dinosaur skeletons and the hands-on activities. It was a captivating experience.

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