Thoughts from the Bodies Exhibit

Posted on January 8, 2013

(Last Updated On: April 11, 2016)

With the recent holidays I had a little time off and decided to check out the Bodies Exhibit in Las Vegas.

bodies exhibit

Poster at the entrance.

Yes, it was readily apparent to me I was using my time off to go to Vegas to look at dead bodies rather than get drunk and make bad decisions. I felt an uneasy sense of maturity and I’m not sure how I feel about this yet.


I’ve seen the exhibit before. I went years ago in New York City and thoroughly enjoyed it. I remembered a lot more than I thought I would, but I have a much different perspective on the human body than I did years ago. Experience will do that to you.

Here are some of my main thoughts as I went through the exhibit and since I left.

Movement is everywhere

I was reminded of this TED talk when going through the exhibit:

If you don’t want to watch the whole thing, the premise is this: The true function of the brain is to control movement.

Going through the exhibit I was reminded of example after example this:

  • All of the muscles, obviously
  • Peristalsis (contraction of muscles like the intestines for digestion)
  • Sperm and how it needs to move through the cervix
  • How female eggs moves location based on the time of the month
  • The entire circulatory system -The exhibit even referred to this as a “highway” for things to move through
  • The nervous system and the speed at which signals move through the body
  • Mastication- The body needs to move the jaw in order to begin digestion
  • The endocrine system and how hormones move throughout the body in order to achieve an effect

And then I thought about how many diseases mentioned in the exhibit are those which disrupt proper movement:

  • Kidney stones
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Arteriosclerosis
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Lung cancer

These lists could go on for a while.

Point being we (or at least I) often think about movement only in the sense of the muscles, but movement extends to essentially all aspects of the human body.

Don’t smoke or be obese

“Duh,” I know.

These two things are brought up and over and over again throughout the exhibit as the cause(s) or concomitant causes for many diseases. I bring these two up because they are two of the few things we have extensive control over.

Keeping in line with the movement theme, and I will write extensively on this soon, obesity severely negatively impacts not just your ability to move, but how you move. For example, being overweight and storing a significant amount of weight in your stomach can make it nearly impossible to get rid of shoulder pain until the weight is lost.

By not smoking and being at a healthy weight you are far, far ahead of most people.

You only get one shot at this

I’m not sure why, but this thought kept coming back to me. For some reason this exhibit really makes you see the fragility that is human life.

Sure, things like seeing cirrhosis of the liver, what smoking does to the lungs, etc. impacts you, but it’s not like me and other people don’t know smoking is bad.

Maybe the act of seeing what smoking does, rather than hearing about it, makes the difference. I’m not sure. (No, I don’t smoke.)

Either way, I bet I’m not alone in getting this feeling during the exhibit.

You only get one body, and really for the most part it’s no different than anyone else’s. Treat it well because once it’s done, it’s done.

Even with seeing things though,

Information is not enough

If you take your time this exhibit can easily take an hour and a half to two hours to get through. I’ve been to the thing before, know more anatomy than most, and it still took me 90 minutes to get through.

After leaving the exhibit I guarantee the majority of people did exactly what I did: Traveled on over to the adjacent food court.

Now the exhibit is rife with examples of how we humans often treat ourselves like shit. Disease after disease is illustrated and how often times these diseases are quite self-inflicted.

After leaving an exhibit like this conventional wisdom tells you people would right away begin to take better care of themselves. However, the food court I went to was packed. The restaurants in this food court?

  • Nathan’s Hot Dogs
  • McDonalds
  • A massively overpriced pizza place
  • Chicken Tender and Milkshake place (Uhh, this is supposed to be a burger place, FYI)
  • Starbucks

Like I mentioned, packed.

These places clearly weren’t hurting for business. If they were, they wouldn’t be packed, nor would they even be in the vicinity of this exhibit. I mean you’d think this would be one of the last locations these restaurants would seek; yet they are ADJACENT to exhibit. I don’t mean in an adjacent building; I mean you literally walk out of the exhibit, take about 15 steps, and you’re in the food court.

People have just been given one of the best demonstrations of how their behavior can literally kill themselves and what do they do? Immediately go right back to those behaviors.

I’m not sure I could come up with a better example of how much your environment plays a role in your eating habits. 

I’d love to see a “healthy” option restaurant in this area with a study where you find out if people are more likely to use the healthy option after leaving Bodies.

We’ll never be as good as evolution

Going through this exhibit you can’t help but be amazed at the intricacies of our bodies. The level of complexity is unreal.

I’m always brought back to this when I see people’s lax attitudes towards things like surgery. In my opinion, we are a long, long ways, if ever, from being as good as our original bodies.

What I mean is a joint reconstruction or replacement will never be able to fully replicate the original. When people think we’re that smart, essentially smarter than a zillion years of adaptation, I think it’s the height of human arrogance.

Again, take care of your body. The options after screwing up your body aren’t as good as you think they are.

Our bodies can be amazing; so can our incompetence

At the end of the exhibit there is a comment book where people can leave feedback.

To the woman who wrote in the book,

“I was disgusted by this exhibit. I really think you need to warn people more before they enter. There are way too many naked bodies. I’m sure I’ll have nightmares for many weeks now.”

What the hell did you think you were going to see?!? Fully clothed manikins???


I hope you have nightmares. Nightmares of naked bodies chasing you. You deserve them.

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Posted in: Miscellaneous, Pain