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Archive for Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Body of fun: KU exhibit offers inside glimpse at human structure

Teresa MacDonald, director of education at the Kansas University Natural History Museum, shows off Anatomy Alex, a lifesize version of the "Operation" board game.

Teresa MacDonald, director of education at the Kansas University Natural History Museum, shows off Anatomy Alex, a lifesize version of the "Operation" board game.

March 17, 2009

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Dawn Kirchner and Teresa MacDonald explain the workings of a 7-foot-tall nose that is part of the "Body Science" exhibit at the Kansas University Natural History Museum.

Dawn Kirchner and Teresa MacDonald explain the workings of a 7-foot-tall nose that is part of the "Body Science" exhibit at the Kansas University Natural History Museum.

Thank goodness it can’t sneeze. We might all be blown away.

Yes, that’s a 7-foot-tall nose, complete with ginormous nostrils, at the Kansas University Natural History Museum. No word if you’ll need a 12-foot tissue to blow it.

The nose is part of “Body Science: Blood, Boogers and Bones,” this year’s spring break science events at the museum.

But lest you think this is all about the gross-out factor, there will be real learning going on at the event, which runs 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. today through Saturday at the museum, 1345 Jayhawk Blvd.

“We think the body is a really, really interesting subject,” says Teresa MacDonald, the museum’s director of public education. “We thought it would be interesting to look at it in a new way.”

Like, for instance, through a 7-foot nose. The nostrils have 300 “nose hairs” — actually Velcro-covered PVC pipes. Visitors can shoot Velcro balls into the passageway to simulate the way the body filters particles attempting to make their way in.

Another highlight is Anatomy Alex, a life-sized version of the “Operation” board game. Try to take out his organs — and if you hit the side of the opening, it’ll buzz at you.

Other activities include:

l Guess how much your body produces of such substances as gas (half a liter) and mucus (1 quart).

l Soak a chicken bone in vinegar to find out how you can tie it in a knot.

l Follow a “scent trail” to learn how good your sense of smell is.

l Do activities to test your balance, and find out how to shorten your arm.

l Learn about evolution by wearing a neck brace that makes you move like a fish.

The public science event, which is free, draws around 4,000 visitors each year. MacDonald says she’s hoping the event makes people stop to think about their bodies.

“You take it for granted,” she says. “Unless it’s broke, you don’t think about it.”

— Features/special sections editor Terry Rombeck can be reached at 832-7145.

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