The Book of Taste is a blog & online store curated by Darrin banks. Based in Los Angeles, he offers design services & his posts explore art, entertainment, food, fitness, and fashion.

Get Up Close and Personal With the Pulse of the Human Body

Get Up Close and Personal With the Pulse of the Human Body

Central Nervous System: From scalp to toes, an extraordinarily sophisticated network of nerve fibers controls and monitors the body. These fibers originate directly in either the brain or spinal cord and become increasingly fine as they branch out into the peripheral regions of the body.  Photo by: DJB for TBOT

Central Nervous System: From scalp to toes, an extraordinarily sophisticated network of nerve fibers controls and monitors the body. These fibers originate directly in either the brain or spinal cord and become increasingly fine as they branch out into the peripheral regions of the body.

Photo by: DJB for TBOT

As a closeted science geek who publicly professes his obsession with health and fitness, I naturally gravitate towards exhibits like Body Worlds. I’m fascinated by the mechanics of the human body and the dichotomy of its innate resilience and simultaneous frailty. 

Expanded Skull: The skull protects the brain, gives shape to the head and face and houses the sensory organs. It's made of 22 single bones. As we get older, the loss of bone mass also affects our facial bones, playing a significant part in facial aging.  Photo by: DJB for TBOT

Expanded Skull: The skull protects the brain, gives shape to the head and face and houses the sensory organs. It's made of 22 single bones. As we get older, the loss of bone mass also affects our facial bones, playing a significant part in facial aging.

Photo by: DJB for TBOT

Blood Vessel Configuration of a Head: In the face there are numerous tiny blood vessels beneath the skin. Heat, intense physical activity, or stress hormones may cause these vessels to widen, which makes us turn red in the face.  Photo by: DJB for TBOT

Blood Vessel Configuration of a Head: In the face there are numerous tiny blood vessels beneath the skin. Heat, intense physical activity, or stress hormones may cause these vessels to widen, which makes us turn red in the face.

Photo by: DJB for TBOT

Since 2004, Dr Gunther Von Hagens has been captivating the curious with his donated cadaver bodies on display for the world to examine. Through a lengthy process he invented called Plastination, Dr Von Hagens has been able to preserve human bodies both in sickness and health in order to explain how our highly sophisticated machine of flesh and bone functions. “Plastination is the process of extracting all bodily fluids and soluble fats from specimens, replacing them through vacuum forced impregnation with reactive resins and elastomers, and then curing them with light, heat, or certain gasses, which give the specimens rigidity and permanence,” (Body Worlds.) It takes a total of 800 hours to prepare a single body for this process and then an additional 4 months to fully preserve it.

The Walker: Stress affects our mental and physical well-being in either positive or negative ways  Photo by: DJB for TBOT

The Walker: Stress affects our mental and physical well-being in either positive or negative ways

Photo by: DJB for TBOT

The Walker: When experiencing stress or danger the entire body is in a heightened state of alertness due to increased levels of cortisol and adrenaline.  Photo by: DJB for TBOT

The Walker: When experiencing stress or danger the entire body is in a heightened state of alertness due to increased levels of cortisol and adrenaline.

Photo by: DJB for TBOT

Body Worlds returns to the California Science Center with a new exhibit called Pulse. Using the entire body along with translucent samples and organs, Pulse explores the human body’s systems and the vulnerabilities associated with 21st century living. Detailed scientific information about the varying effects common aliments such as stress or obesity have on the locomotive, nervous, respiratory, circulatory, digestive, and reproductive systems are there in the flesh for patrons to interact with and learn from. If you’re curious about what the sugar in a can of soda does to your kidney function over time, or smoking cigarettes does to your lungs and liver, you’ll get to see that and much more. The full bodies of people who lived as athletes, dancers, and yogis—engaging in routine exercise and healthy dieting show a correlating contrast to those specimens plagued by disease and unhealthy lifestyles.

The Yoga Lady: The ability to maintain balance depends on information that the brain receives from the eyes, the muscles and joints, and the vestibular organs in the inner ears. This ability frequently is impaired in old age.  Photo by: DJB for TBOT

The Yoga Lady: The ability to maintain balance depends on information that the brain receives from the eyes, the muscles and joints, and the vestibular organs in the inner ears. This ability frequently is impaired in old age.

Photo by: DJB for TBOT

The Digestive Process: The digestive tract is like a long tube roughly 30 feet in length. The small intestine is a main site of digestion, where nutrient molecules are absorbed into the bloodstream.  Photo by: DJB for TBOT

The Digestive Process: The digestive tract is like a long tube roughly 30 feet in length. The small intestine is a main site of digestion, where nutrient molecules are absorbed into the bloodstream.

Photo by: DJB for TBOT

Obesity Revealed: This longitudinal body slice shows a severe degree of obesity. Here, the subcutaneous fatty tissue is notably thickened. But also the fat inside the abdominal cavity is considerably increased. This person weighs 300 lbs.  Photo by DJB for TBOT

Obesity Revealed: This longitudinal body slice shows a severe degree of obesity. Here, the subcutaneous fatty tissue is notably thickened. But also the fat inside the abdominal cavity is considerably increased. This person weighs 300 lbs.

Photo by DJB for TBOT

Despite the controversial debate around its ethical and educational merit, there is a significant waiting list of willing donors ready to give their bodies to Dr Von Hagens when they die. In a 2006 interview Von Hagens gave All Things Considered reporter Neda Ulaby, he said, “what I certainly never use for public exhibitions are unclaimed bodies, prisoners, bodies from mental institutions and executed prisoners.” This statement highlights much of the ethical debate surrounding his exhibit, especially as it compares to the practices of his competitor Bodies…The Exhibition, which openly admits to using unclaimed or unauthorized cadavers from China (All Things Considered). Dr Von Hagens’ Body Worlds exhibit on the other hand has been thoroughly investigated by an ethics advisory committed commissioned by the California Science Center tasked with substantiating the exhibits ethical legitimacy.

The Human Body movie

Depending on the showing schedule, I highly recommend seeing The Human Body film at the museums IMAX Theater as an accompanying appetizer or dessert to your Pulse experience. Like the exhibit, the film explores the complex systems of the body from the inside out by using cameras, x-rays, and other highly advanced technology. From birth, through puberty and into adulthood, the viewer learns how the body’s systems reflexively function without any conscious awareness or “help” from us. For example, did you know it takes the use of 300 coordinated muscles to operate a bike or that a baby crawls approximately 60 miles before it walks? See how the body generates heat, cools itself down, digests its food, circulates blood and oxygen, and even how male and female DNA merge inside the womb. Three years in the making, the film is engrossing and informative—the perfect pairing to Body Worlds: Pulse exhibit.

The Human Body movie 3
The Human Body movie 2

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