Tag Archives: whale heart

Anatomically-correct giant heart

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Giant heart at Franklin institute. Photo by Silvana Russo.

I heard the The Franklin Institute in Philly had a giant heart on exhibit.

As a fan of giant hearts, I had to see it.

If I had a giant cabinet in which to store giant hearts specimens, my collection would with a Volkswagen bug-sized blue whale’s heart.

Blue whale's heart model at the Field Museum.

Blue whale’s heart model at the Field Museum.

For context, I would also collect and display the museum ad for the whale’s heart:

A whale’s heart goes for a ride. Photo by Vancouver Science World and Rethink Communications.

A whale’s heart goes for a ride. Photo by Vancouver Science World and Rethink Communications.

And then I’d renovate the cabinet to make room for the Franklin’s giant heart.

Giant heart at Franklin institute. Photo by the author.

Giant heart at Franklin institute. Dr. Silvana Russo analyzes while young museum visitors dash past her. Photo by the author.

I have to confess I was expecting a modest, whale-sized heart. The models of blue whale’s hearts are in high demand and touring the world. They are hollow, so kids can climb in and out through the ventricles and arteries. However, the Franklin’s giant heart was an ambitious model that would belong to a 220-ft giant, someone the size of the statue of liberty.

Statue of liberty’s heart is large enough for adults to climb inside. The mini-tour inside the heart includes micro staircases, claustrophobic spaces, and “you are here”-type maps. The maps convey the analogous heart location you are stepping into (e.g., ventricles, valves, arteries).

I visited the museum with my sister, an MD and blog contributor on the case of debunking House episodes. “We are approaching the lungs!”, she would shout, apparently narrating the tour. I got a little lost in the abstraction – it was hard to tell which valve was doing what and what kind of blood I was (oxygenated?). A whale’s heart might be large enough to make all structures visible and memorable, but not too large as to make you loose the big picture idea.

Dr. Russo (the other Dr. in the family) disagreed. She though it helps giving children an idea of what blood circulation is. I could have interviewed the young participants and ask, but unfortunately they were too scared to get in.

Animal heart display at the Franklin institute. Photo by the author.

Animal heart display at the Franklin institute. Photo by the author.

Near the giant heart were some averaged-sized ones, in a scale of comparison with other animals.

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Average-sized hearts of different animal species. Franklin Institute. Photo by the author.

Most hearts were mammal’s (mouse, cow, polar bear, elephant, and at the top, beaked whale), along with two bird hearts (ostrich and finch).

Dr. Russo tests the circulation exhibit at the Franklin Institute. Photo by the author.

Dr. Russo tests the circulation exhibit at the Franklin Institute. Photo by the author.

Dr. Silvana Russo also tested the Franklin’s interactive exhibit on circulation.

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Dr. Russo tests the circulation exhibit at the Franklin Institute. Photo by the author.

She is the expert and knows how blood drops flow.

Meanwhile, I continue to work on my imaginary collection of anatomically-correct hearts. Valentine’s day seems perfect for that.

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New post on PLOS blogs: museum education versus consumerism

A whale’s heart goes for a ride. Photo by Vancouver Science World and Rethink Communications.

A whale’s heart goes for a ride. Photo by Vancouver Science World and Rethink Communications.

I have a new post up at PLOS Sci-ed, titled Selling memories: the tenuous line between museum education and consumerism.

A few months ago, the science blogosphere was ablaze with an ad campaign from the a science museum in Vancouver. This campaign combines unusual ads with a quirky scientific message. A sign saying “a blue whale’s heart is the size of this car” is fixed, well, atop of a car. Another car drove around with a “woofasaurus” on the back seat; a fluid-filled tank encouraged kids to walk on water; a tiger’s litterbox littered the street; and a moving squid eye followed museum visitors. All ads promise Vancouver inhabitants that they will find answers at the museum.

As we mentioned earlier (here and here), many adults visit museums after they are persuaded by their children. This phenomenon, called “the nag effect”, is widely recognized and taken advantage of in the world of advertising. One example of the nag effect in action is described in the article “how do children convince their parents to buy unhealthy food.”  The Vancouver Science World and Rethink Communications used the nag effect in their advertising strategy. Their ad campaign, in place since 2004, combined print ads, billboards, bus stop ads, TV and radio spots, and a collection of “unconventional” ad media. Convincing a parent to visit a museum sounds like a better idea than pushing them to buy unhealthy food, but still: we are talking about using the power of advertising and consumerism in favor of a museum.

When is it honorable to use advertising as subterfuge for the cause of science and education?

Continue reading after the jump...