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Body Worlds 2: Diced And Spliced

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Wowsers. Have you seen the Body Worlds 2 exhibit at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science? It the one you’ve seen advertised that looks like a cross between a horror movie and an anatomy class. In person, the exhibit is fascinating, informative, and very difficult to look at on a hangover. We went Saturday around noon and got tickets for the 1 p.m. admission. It’s timed so that the crowds are staggered, and even then it’s crowded on the weekends. You’ll want to spend at least an hour or more in this exhibit alone, and it is truly an experience. At first my mind was so boggled by the plastination process, which allows real human bodies to be preserved perfectly — albeit minus skin, muscles, or body organs depending on the specific display — that my still queasy stomach didn’t even react to the exhibits. And if you’re wondering about it, no, the exhibits do not smell of anything (formaldehyde is used in the process but all the water in the bodies is basically replaced by plastics during the process). And if you’re also wondering, yes, it’s really quite freakish and creepy, though I wasn’t exactly disgusted by it. Well, most of it anyway. Many of the bodies are posed to show the workings of the tendons and muscles, some are split wide open — we’re talking slasher film stuff minus the blood and gore — to show the cross-sections of bones and organs, and many exhibits show the effects of disease on various body organs in whole and in cross section. Seeing an image of a smoker’s lung is different than seeing a real lung laying there under the glass, all blackened and gooey. And the coal miner’s lung next to it makes the smoker’s lung look nearly healthy in comparison. One exhibit deals with the development of babies during pregnancy, and is curtained off from the rest of the exhibits so that you can choose to view it or skip it. A sign posted outside the curtain says that the bodies shown, including phases of various fetal development, all died of natural causes before donation. But for me the worst one was the old man who was left essentially intact, completely preserved with skin and hair, etc. and was basically split into sections lengthwise as if he’d been through an egg slicer. The intent is to show how densely our bodies are built when seen in this manner, but I think it’s the skin that did it; you can really see the man he used to be, as opposed to many of the other exhibits which are made of muscles, nerves, and bone. That was the end of the exhibition for me. You can imagine that by the time I hit the egg-sliced guy, my stomach was doing wiggly little backflips and my head was getting woozy. I wouldn’t normally consider myself someone with a weak stomach, so I’ll blame it on the slight hangover I had from drinking crappy Cabernet at Lipgloss the night before. Still, this is not one for those with a low gross-out factor. That said, my husband loved the exhibit. He’s one of those types who needs to know how thinks work, and really being able to see the body’s systems was incredibly cool for him. And the two other women who saw the exhibit with us both enjoyed it as well, saying that seeing the body displayed in this manner is truly amazing. Seems that I was the only one who found the exhibit slightly disturbing. Still. At the very least, take my advice and do not view Body Worlds after any sort of overindulgence. You’ll understand, believe me.

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