50-Foot-Tall Woman with Visible Organs
Los Angeles, California
Just when you fear modern science museums have completely succumbed to slick design and packaged interactive edutainment, along comes a striking monstrosity like Tess, the 50-ft. tall woman with visible organs.
This big woman is part of the California Science Center, near the convention center and just south of downtown LA. Parking is $6, but the CSC is free (donations suggested). It houses the expected array of computer kiosks, fun with science gizmos, creative labs -- and plenty of stuff kids can pull and toss and pound. For regional garnish, there's a simulated earthquake (a program mostly concerned with assuring us that the CSC building is exceedingly well-constructed). There's also a separate building for the recently opened Air and Space Gallery. This is all fun and worth a visit, especially if you are looking for economical brood exhaustion.
Visitors solely seeking the gutsy giantess should head for "The World of Life" section on the second floor to the left -- Tess is in the Bodyworks Theater, where "Organs work together to keep your body in balance." The entire show runs about 20 minutes, and repeats regularly throughout the day. Spectators arriving early find good seats on the surrounding benches.
The pale body lies in state, motionless, eyes shut. Parts of her are open for inspection, as if you're shriveled down onto the edge of a coroner's dissection table. Come to think of it, the L.A. County Coroner's gift shop is a scant few miles away...
Tess clearly builds on the proud living anatomy tradition of Transparent Women, but on a proportionately higher level. And while those older see-thru ladies tinnily sing praise of motherly lactation and child bearing, Tess is a no nonsense Gal of Today. She's an athletic, nerve-impulsing, muscle-contracting, heart-pumping powerhouse as we observe her systems during a soccer match.
A projected video cartoon sidekick, Walt, starts the show, as he wakes up a slightly medicated-looking Tess and banters with her through the physiological basics. Her head slowly turns, her eyes blink, her cheeks and lips move. Organs dutifully light up and throb, a combination of animatronics and light show. Walt and Tess explain the concept of "Homeostasis," where every organ and body system operate in harmony.
Then we're along for the P.O.V. ride as Tess tears around the video soccer field, her organs and veins lighting up when blood pumps, electrical signals travel along nerve paths from brain to limb. As Tess becomes more energized, dials on the walls spin and alarms go off. Walt screams "Tess, you're overheating! Tess! TESS!!" Will she explode and splatter the audience?
Fortunately, no, because homeostasis kicks in and puts the brakes on the overachieving giant.
Okay, so Tess is slickly packaged edutainment too. But just imagine how this will get better with age....