Local Commentary

Our Man in Arlington

Our Memorial Day outing was not your typical Memorial Day with the laying of the wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the parade down Constitution Avenue, and an old fashioned barbecue picnic in the backyard.

Nope. We went with neighbors to see Bodies: The Exhibition at The Dome in Roslyn. The Dome, you will recollect, once housed Gannett’s Newseum before it was moved across the river.

The exhibit is of human bodies and body parts preserved by a process known as corrosion casting which hardens the bodies and parts into what looks almost like a plastic substance. The bodies apparently came from a medical university in China. There is some indication that at least some are the bodies of executed prisoners, which, if true, raises some serious ethical questions.

It is a totally fascinating exhibition in which you learn probably much more than you want to about how the body is structured and functions. The exhibits are most explicit.

You start with bones and skeletal structures. You then progress to how body parts are attached to the skeletal structure, the entire system of arteries and veins, the major muscle groups and how they work. Among the more dramatic exhibits are fetus’s ranging from just a few days threw the entire birth cycle to almost nine months.

And there is a human body that has been cut into vertical slabs about two inches thick all the way from head to toe – looking much like the images you get from an MRI, but in this case real flesh and bone.

We see bodies and their muscles and bones playing basketball, and conducting an orchestra, as well as the complete intestine stretched out, and all of the arteries and veins without the body.

There is also an exhibit of the complete skin of a human body – truly spooky!

We also saw the effects of cancer cardio-vascular disease. One of the most dramatic was the comparison of a healthy lung with one ravaged by a lifetime of smoking.

And now I know exactly what the new metal parts in my hip look like and how they function.

Some of the more interesting facts learned from the exhibit:

  • The most common component of household dust is skin.
  • The typical body has more than sixty miles of blood veins and arteries. (And you see them all here.)
  • The smallest muscle in the body is in the ear; the largest are the buttocks.
  • The male sperm is the smallest cell, the female egg the largest.
  • Twenty percent of all the body’s blood goes to the brain.
  • The skin is the largest organ in the body (I didn’t know it was an organ!), running on the average body to twenty-two square feet.

There was a large crowd seeing the exhibition, and the place was packed with kids, all of whom seemed fascinated by the tremendous complexity and subtly of the human body. It is easy to reach in Roslyn by Metro and bus, and parking garages appear to be reasonably plentiful. The exhibition is a little pricey, but it is definitely worth it. I’ll see you there – I plan to return with some of my grandchildren.