(I’d been running just a little bit late, so decided to take the car to the Quincy Center T station rather than walking. What I didn’t realize was that Quincy’s Veteran’s Day parade was about to start — I had no fewer than three intersections close just as I was about to go through them, had similar trouble getting back home (since some of the streets I’d come through were now blocked off), and ended up dropping my car off in a parking lot I could get to and walking. So I was sadly more than half an hour late, but fortunately that just meant there was lots of yummy stuff already on the table when I got there.)
Then the lovely (x3) minerva42, underwatercolor, plumtreeblossom, and I went to the Museum of Science, intending to see the Body Worlds 2 exhibit. Unfortunately when we got there we found out that the earliest entrance time that still had tickets available was 5:30 (6:00 by the time we’d finished talking about it), and minerva42 and underwatercolor had evening plans and hadn’t planned on spending that much time in the museum. So we all got exhibit hall tickets, and plumtreeblossom and I got tickets to a movie and to Body Worlds 2 as well.
The regular exhibits were fun, but not particularly new to any of us. (The electricity show, with the huge Van de Graaff generator, suffered from a presenter who could give Mumbles a run for his money.) Definitely fun, though, and we got to see tamarins! Yay monkeys!
Then we said goodbye to minerva42 and underwatercolor, and plumtreeblossom and I saw the 3D Mars movie, using imagery from the Spirit and Opportunity rovers (as well as a lot of CGI, some of it a little silly). I’d seen some of the images (or at least similar ones), some of them even in 3D, since NASA makes them available in red-green anaglyphs for viewing with (1950’s-style 3D glasses), but the MoS digital 3D theater uses polarized glasses, so the colour looks much better because both eyes are seeing a full-colour image, and it’s a lot more impressive to see on the big screen. And the movie answered some questions I’d had (although I don’t remember what they were).
And finally, we got to go to the Body Worlds exhibit, which was amazing and somewhat awe-inspiring. It started with bones and skeletons, then showed skeletons and joints with cartilage and ligaments attached, and then you started to see full bodies. Most of them, especially the first ones, were various layers of muscle, with the skin and subcutaneous fat removed. One of the early ones had the skeleton and the muscles of the same person separated, standing next to each other. (The plastination process that is used to preserve the bodies replaces the fluid in the tissues with plastic; when it hardens it’s quite rigid, so the musculature could keep its shape independent of the skeleton.) Some of the later specimens were much more elaborate, with muscles and/or bones separated from the organs underneath them, sometimes both in lifelike poses (for instance, the bones of the forearm might be bent forward as if to point, while the muscles might be hanging as if at rest). One woman had a particularly interesting dissection — her musculature was intact on the front, but her back had been cut away to reveal the organs underneath (e.g., lungs and kidneys). Since dissections and even diagrams of the organs almost always show them from the front, it was neat to see them in situ from a more unusual perspective. There were also individual organs and organ systems preserved separately (e.g., a brain with spinal cord and the first few inches of the nerves radiating off it). There was a sequence of specimens which were just the blood vessels, done by filling them with opaque plastic and then removing all the actual tissue, leaving a fine, lace-like three-dimensional cast of the blood vessels. (I don’t know how that was done, since a lot of the specimens would have involved removing the bone without disturbing the cast of the blood vessels. I imagine they must have used something that dissolved the bone and other tissue without dissolving the plastic.) Those displays were particularly beautiful, although sometimes a bit hard to interpret.
For examples, see the press picture database. There are three different touring exhibits, so only a fraction of these specimens were in Boston (and there were lots and lots that aren’t depicted at the web site). From the examples of full-body plastinates, for instance, we saw The Ballet Dancer, The Yoga Lady, The Soccer Player, and The Baseball Player — and those were probably about a quarter of the full-body plastinates that were in the exhibit.
Oh — most of the exhibit was hands-off, but there were a plastinated liver and brain that you could touch. I got to hold a human brain in my hand! (Well, I got to hold mostly plastic infusing a human brain, anyway; still, it was fascinating and exciting.)
The tone of the exhibit was somewhere between art gallery and sedate, geared-to-adults science museum (although there were certainly children around). I don’t really understand the concept of being “respectful” to dead bodies, because I think of respect as something about the relationship between one person (or at least one living creature) and another, but the displays struck me as almost reverential and certainly respectful of the memory of the people these bodies had been. Personally, I would love to have my body preserved that way if it weren’t going to be parted up to save lives.
I could go on and on for ages about this exhibit (feel free to ask questions, or browse through the exhibit catalogue if you’re over at my house), but I’m running out of LJ-posting steam, so I’ll stop babbling now. (I definitely want to go back while it’s still in Boston, more than once if possible.)
plumtreeblossom and I then took the T to Quincy, where we both slept very well. I dropped her off at home, since she had a busy Sunday planned. [EDIT: Oh, I forgot to mention introducing plumtreeblossom to Sarsfield’s, an Irish pub in Quincy. We had a couple of yummy pints, but I like going there on weeknights better — it was extremely crowded.]
I had a busy Sunday planned, too, but so far I don’t seem to have actually gotten to any of it. :-)