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There is a world of bacteria in your belly button. A new exhibit at the Frost Museum of Science can help you explore it.
“The Secret World Inside You,” an interactive exhibit about the microorganisms and bacteria that live in your body and keep it healthy, opens this Memorial Day weekend on the first floor of the museum and runs until Sept. 9. Admission into the colorful and high-tech exhibit is included with admission to the museum.
The exhibit aims to bring families, adults and field trip groups on a tour through the human microbiome, which is the ecosystem of trillions of microscopic organisms that live on your skin, in your gut and in between your eyelashes. Each person’s microbiome is unique and comprises trillions of microbes — more than the stars in the Milky Way. Congratulations! You’re a galaxy.
Although bacteria get a bad reputation for carrying diseases, Daniella Orihuela, the museum’s learning programs manager, said the exhibit shows how the majority of microbes keeps the body healthy and functioning. A person’s diet, environment, lifestyle and home country affect their microbiome.
The traveling exhibit is sponsored by Nicklaus Children’s Hospital and organized by the American Museum of Natural History in New York, Orihuela said.
“As you’re investigating what is your own body, you’re learning and having fun with it,” Orihuela said.
The exhibit opens with a mirrored hallway bouncing blue and red lights in every direction. It leads into a light blue “birth canal” that explains how babies are first introduced to healthy bacteria that will help build a strong immune system.
As you find your way through the body, you encounter a video game about eating healthy food. Later on is a side-by-side comparison of the scent of cheese and foot fungus. Spoiler alert: you can smell it before you see it. An interactive image of a giant lady on a table allows participants to zoom in on the bacteria on her hand and the tiny mites in her eyelashes.
The exhibit ends with a live presentation that is hosted four times a day about microbes that live on different parts of the body and how bacteria exists in everyday life. For example, the microbes on your pillow case are similar to the microbes on your toilet seat.
The walls around the presentation area are decorated with a pattern of petri dish samples from different bellybuttons. It’s not gross, it looks like rainbow polka dots.
As scientists research how microbes affect health concerns like obesity and mental health, Orihuela said the exhibit aims to teach people about their microbiome as a reflection of who they are.
“We can’t avoid them,” she said. “A big portion of them are very, very good for us.”