Friday, December 28, 2007

A visit to the Detroit Science Center -- part 1

I don't know how many people have had a chance to go to the Detroit Science Center and see the "Our Body: The Universe Within" exhibit that closes on the 6th of January, but I would definitely recommend going, even though it's a little pricey for admission. The exhibit is described as a once in a lifetime opportunity to explore the beautiful human body... and they were right.

This was my first time going to the DSC. I don't know why I never made it over before today. I suppose because I was always over at the Detroit Institute of Arts just across the street. A parking space was a very hard thing to come by today. Given that it was a Thursday made no difference. A Thursday that was situated between Christmas and the New year, a time off for students K-12 & college and an exhibit nearing its end-run. After driving around and seeing numerous signs exclaiming "LOT FULL" in shaky electronic letters or the standard signs of "Tenant parking only -- others will be towed" we managed to double back and find a spot on the street with no meters about a half-mile from the Center.

The DSC is 4 floors of buzzing activity, mostly from the energy of the young kids that were having fun there. After getting our tickets, we proceeded to the entrance of the exhibit, which just happened to be the door to a large steel freight elevator. Reading the program guide FAQs while I waited explained some of the background behind the making of the exhibit. The bodies used in the exhibit are from China to "promote educational and medical research of the human body". The process by which they use to create these pieces of art is called "plastination". By way of polymer impregnation, replacing the water and fat in the bodies with reactive plastics, they can preserve the bodies down to the microscopic level. The process takes 1,200 - 1,500 hours per specimen!

The doors opened without too much delay and we were corralled inside facing closed doors on the opposite end of the elevator, fully expecting that these would open and we would proceed forward. A voice calls out from behind us -- the elevator operator -- telling us about what we are about to witness "LIVE HUMAN BODIES". I guess giving us the chance to somehow bolt from the elevator as the doors were closing to spare us from the gruesome spectacle. He proceeded to joke with us being all packed in about "Where do think they get the new bodies for the exhibit." He chuckled. I groaned. I really didn't need humor to break the ice, I was perfectly fine with seeing these human specimens, I knew what I was getting into. The doors opened -- not where I, and everyone else was facing -- but behind us. Feeling slightly like the butt of a joke I turned and followed the rest of the group out of the elevator.

The exhibit room was very dark, black partitioned walls with spotlights above illuminating text displays and the objects of the exhibit, like a set design from Night Gallery. Gentle symphonic music drifts in the air. Most of the exhibit floor was lined on the outer edges of the snaking floor-plan with clear plexi-boxes on black pedestals displaying individual parts of the human anatomy. Most of the arms, legs, hands and feet were stripped down so that various levels could be examined. Exposing muscles, tendons, nerves and bone in separate displays. There were also organs artistically sliced open giving a window-like view into their inner designs. Throughout the central ailes were the complete specimens displayed in various poses. The most interesting of the lot was one (featured in the pic above, which I did not take) from the musculoskeletal section. The male specimen was in a running posture, with the muscles almost looking like they are about to fly free from the body. This to me was the most artistic of the displays. I also learned that there is a U-shaped bone, the hyoid bone, located just below the mandible of the skull that holds up the larynx. Which is apparently considered in one display as part of the bones of the skull. Weird!?

After looking at the upper exhibit we headed to the second floor to see a microscopic view of the human body. But in our haste passed it by and ended up on the first floor where the IMAX is located. So while we waited for my dad to come back from the bathroom the power went out in the building. About 5 seconds after it cut out the emergency lighting came on. My dad comes out of the bathroom telling us he was just about to hit the switch for the lights when the power went out. With the elevator in non-working condition we went back up a flight of stairs to the Microworld exhibit that we should have been in when the lights went out. Luckily we weren't though. Slowly people started wandering out of the exhibit entrance without the aid of any internal lights. Believe it or not the people designing the space figured that the lights would always be on. Whoops. I asked one of the security guards to get out a flashlight and go in a help guide the people out. The best item for illumination he had on his person was his cell phone?! So in he went like Indiana Jones carrying his cell phone held high with the brightest photo in his storage showing on the display. It was rather comical and somewhat ridiculous that they weren't prepared for an emergency like this. Well we stood around the once flashy and buzzing rooms filled with scientific experimentation, now felled silent by the lack of power for about 20 minutes. Then a worker asked us to go upstairs to leave the building. It was discovered that the entire block had lost power and DTE was called to the scene of an underground wire problem to fix it. Knowing the notorious lack of speed at which DTE can get power back on we decided to leave the premises and get something to eat. We were told we could come back with our receipt and or tickets to see the exhibit before it closes on the 6th.

We went to Mexicantown and had a delicious meal at Evie's Tamales on 3454 Bagley St. I would highly recommend the tamales dinner, the best I have had. Plus, they bring you this great platter of cookies to choose one from for dessert, made me feel like a kid again.

So, I will leave this adventure open until I can return either tomorrow or sometime this weekend. Wish me luck...

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