The American Museum of Natural History's new exhibit, The Secret World Inside You, explores microbes, the billions of tiny organisms living in and on our bodies.
We share our bodies with some 3 pounds of microbes, about the same weight as the average human brain. That alone should demonstrate how important these little buggers are to human life. Microbes keep our nervous and digestive systems healthy and our brain in tiptop function. Some scientists even expect doctors one day will prescribe microbes for weight loss, athlete’s foot or other health issues.
That's a lot for kids to take in but don't let that keep you away. The exhibit is full of engaging interactive and live elements that kids will appreciate.
Highlights include a larger-than-life model of bacteria fighting an athlete’s foot fungus and an explanation of why stinky feet smell like Limburger cheese. (Spoiler: Both odors are caused by the same bacteria.) There's also a theater presentation and interactive games for kids to play.
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The Secret World Inside You guides visitors through a light room for a sense of the vastness of the microscopic universe on and in you. Photo courtesy of AMNH/D. Finnin.
The Secret World opens in a fantastic hall-of-mirrors-like setting. The room uses mirrors, dim lighting and colored pinpoint lights to illustrate the microscopic universe of organisms living on our bodies.
The exhibit explains through videos, hands-on activities, technology and live presentations where we obtain our microbes; why no two people have the same microbe makeup; what these organisms do for our health; and what the future holds for this innovative field of study.
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This 14-foot projection of a pregnant woman’s body is part of an interactive exhibit highlighting microbes impact human health. Photo courtesy of AMNH/D. Finnin.
A 14-foot interactive table is dedicated to viewing microbes at work. An animation of the immune system shows how it kicks into gear when you cut yourself. You can also examine exhibits that explain bacteria’s role in destroying kidney stones, creating tooth decay and other functions.
During a 20-minute, interactive game show-style presentation, visitors explore microbes that live in our belly buttons. On your way out make sure to add the sticker given at the presentation to the walls of the exhibit's final room — it's just another way to illustrate the vast microbe universe and it was one of my son's favorite moments in the day.
The Secret World Inside You is on display through August 14, 2016 at the American Museum of Natural History. It is a special exhibit and included in the "Admission plus One" ticket at the museum.
Top photo shows an oversized exhibit of athlete's foot. Image provided by the museum.