Thursday, June 11, 2009 | 2 a.m.
If You Go
- What: “Grossology: The (Impolite) Science of the Human Body”
- When: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday,noon-5 p.m. Sunday
- Where: Lied Discovery Children’s Museum, 833 Las Vegas Blvd. North
- Admission: $7 children 1-17, seniors and military, $8 adults; 382-3445, www.ldcm.org
- Audience advisory: Not for the super-squeamish or germophobes
Beyond the Sun
Booger. Barf. Burp. Fart. Poop.
Any parent or elementary school teacher can confirm to you that these are the funniest words in the history of human language.
In fact, the only thing funnier to, say, a 5-year-old is hearing or seeing the actual thing.
That’s the genius of a new interactive “edutainment” exhibition called “Grossology: The (Impolite) Science of the Human Body,” which can be seen and heard — and smelled — at the Lied Discovery Children’s Museum through Labor Day.
Based on a best-selling book by Sylvia Branzei and developed in collaboration with Science World British Columbia, “Grossology” is the most expensive touring exhibition the Lied Discovery Children’s Museum has rented, spokesman Brock Radke says.
But it’s a proven kid-magnet and guarantees a high return on investment. At Oregon’s Museum of Science and Industry, “Grossology” smashed attendance records previously held by a dinosaur exhibit. Museums in Vancouver and St. Louis report reaping up to $300,000 during the exhibit’s stay.
It’s Monday morning and all is quiet in the museum, which awaits the arrival by bus of about 150 kids from Walter Long Elementary and New Horizons Academy.
The buses arrive and suddenly released 7-year-olds are rocketing and ricocheting through the various rooms, bouncing off the walls and one another.
It doesn’t take long for them to discover the exhibit’s biggest draw.
Not all toots sound the same.
The fart machine could just as easily be defined as a laughter-producing machine. Certainly nothing could be a better mood elevator than the delight of small boys and girls discovering that they’re allowed to make fart sounds — in fact they’re encouraged to. As many and as loud as they want!
The educational take-away is there: Farts are produced when pressured gas creates sound vibrations as it escapes past tight or loose skin.
But the science will be discussed afterward in class. Right now, it’s a competition, with a half-dozen 5-year-olds just jamming on the fart machine, exultant when they get off a good one.
Angel Sanchez, 8, instantly figured out how to achieve admirable volume and pitch, and afterward cheerfully volunteered to demonstrate the old school way, producing an array of wind songs with just his armpit and his hand.
There’s clearly a market for humorous exploitation of the gross and rude. The inventor of iFart, a flatulence simulator designed as an application for the Apple iPhone, recently earned more than $500,000 at 99 cents per download. Since then, iFart has spawned more than 60 imitators, including such variants as iBelch and iSneeze.
Vomiting is important.
So declares the Vomit Center, in which budding scientists are challenged to pick the sequence in which body parts act when the body needs to upchuck.
Moving on to the related area of burping, we find 5-year-old Ulysses Sotelo putting his entire body to the task of pumping soda pop from a clear ball and up a transparent tube. When his hard work is rewarded with a loud, long uuuurrrrrrp, Ulysses’ face glows with a Christmas morning expression of radiant joy and hilarity.
“These are third graders — this stuff is right up their alley,” mused Miss Walker, who teaches at Walter Long and was keeping a calm but amused eye on the action.
“We really like (the museum) because it’s a hands-on museum, so they don’t have to be quiet and they can experience science,” says Miss Walker, whom you may call Elizabeth once you’ve graduated from high school.
The exhibition also deals with other excretions: Pee and poop, for instance, are tastefully handled. In “Urine: The Game,” a video game console that looks a lot like a refurbished Ms. Pac-Man, players are tasked with removing waste elements from the bloodstream. And nearby, a faux X-ray screen that tracks the movement of food through and out of the body.
What does your skin do? It acts like a waterproof baggie that keeps your guts from falling out ...
Five-year-old fireball Jackson Lovell heads straight for a craggy, pinkish climbing wall, unaware and certainly unbothered that he is clambering up and down a “skin-crawling” wall, a blown up expanse of human epidermis, with hand- and toeholds made of supersized hairs, pimples, scabs and warts.
“He’s used to it,” says Jack’s dad, Charlie Lovell, noting that he and Jack’s mom, Suzanne, are both nurses. “He knows quite a bit about body functions and anatomy already.”
Seventy percent of people admit to picking their boogers ...
Another big hit at the exhibit is a Nigel Nose-It-All, an animatronic faucet with an English accent, waving a handkerchief, and periodically exuding (and then retracting) a big glob of sea-foam-colored goo.
And another game challenges kids to sniff a smell and then identify the body area that emitted the smell: A) Mouth? B) Armpit? C) Anus? D) Foot?
Stinky smells are one thing, but one aspect of “Grossology” may be more disturbing to the childless visitor. You don’t have to be a forensic detective to spot the fingerprints — from hundreds of small hands each day — all over each of these gizmos.
The Lied Museum may have missed an opportunity: This hands-on “Grossology” exhibition could easily have been sponsored by Purell hand sanitizer.