Body Worlds Decoded

Exhibit at the tech is not for the faint of heart


Atticus Ahearn

A baseball player finishes his swing, permanently plastinated in position.

Atticus Ahearn, Photo Editor

Despite spending 100 percent of our time inside of our own bodies, they are almost as mysterious to us as they would be to a stranger on the street. A decade ago, an average person would learn more about what happens beneath the skin from images and digital recreations online.

With the help of scientists, doctors, artists and financial supporters, the human body has been deconstructed for the public eye to finally gaze upon. In October, cadavers and real human specimens found their temporary home on the second floor of The Tech in downtown San Jose.

The exhibit, titled Body Worlds Decoded, is one of 13 worldwide, only two of which are in the United States. Each of these Body Worlds exhibits features plastinated cadavers (real corpses that have donated their bodies to science) and they all have different themes that promote a healthier you.

Earlier this month, senior Emma Tucker visited the exhibit out of sheer curiosity.

“I was interested in seeing what actually went on inside the human body and what it all looked like. We all have ideas of what everything is supposed to do, but you don’t really know until you see it for yourself,” she said.

Body Worlds Decoded features eight full-body displays, over 60 individual specimens, two visualization screens, a digital anatomy table, and even a few pieces of artwork that tie the art and medical fields together. Upon entering, visitors can check out a tablet that creates an educational alternative reality that corresponds with each display case.

These various tools are rarely available to educators, so teachers are encouraged to bring their students. Body Worlds even offers textbooks and other educational materials in hopes of reaching more young people. Jessica Overby, Branham’s anatomy and physiology teacher, said that she hoped to take her class there for a field trip.

“I think [the exhibit] is awesome because my students only get to see pictures from the textbook. This is real,” she said.

Half of the exhibit is focused on the brain, bones and respiratory system. Because these specimens are from real bodies, the exhibit is able to provide samples that were affected by common diseases before death, such as blackened lung from a smoker.

In others, there are labels pointing to the affected areas of the sample where something like a tiny mass or a small discoloration is slightly visible. For example, the brain of a stroke victim has a white label pointing to a dark blood clot. This aspect of the showcase prompts the general audience to be more introspective and take better care of their bodies.

As for the full-body, fairly healthy models, they are shocking at first glance. Each model is posed differently, based on their hobbies and jobs when they were alive. For example, a baseball player poses with the bat over his shoulder, but all his skin has been removed so every muscle, bone, and organ is visible as he flexes. A few have added eyebrows or eyes, but the rest of the body has been frozen in time via plastination. Other models, like flamenco dancers and an opera singer, are also on display. The opera singer draws many spectators due to his enormous lungs that confirm where the immense power of his voice came from.

Although it has only been at The Tech for a couple months, this exhibit is here to stay for the next 10 years for $19. With a relatively inexpensive price to educate oneself, the opportunities the exhibit presents to understand the human body should be taken advantage of.