Disecting Diseases in Dublin – With Your Kids?


Image from sciencegallery.ieImage from sciencegallery.ie

Image from sciencegallery.ie

GeekDads with older GeekTeens who find themselves in Dublin, Ireland might want to check out the oddly topical Infectious exhibition in the Trinity College Science Gallery on Pearse Street. In recent weeks, with concern about swine flu and words like ‘pandemic’ being used (and misused) by the media, this seems to be a worthwhile and timely way of addressing, though maybe not assuaging fears about epidemics and outbreaks.

There’s a DNA sequencing experiment that will tell you (later, via a secure website) what natural immunities you have, as well as letting you contribute to research by immunologists in Trinity College; There’s an epidemic simulator that lets you contribute such variables as immunity, virulence and recovery time, and a group art project where you contribute a kiss to an agar plate which is then incubated and the resulting bacteria culture from your mouth and nose added to the wall display. (The website warns that ‘this exhibit contains sterilized horse blood.’) You can even track your movements, and how any disease you’re carrying would have been transmitted through the gallery via an ID badge – even going so far as to show cross contamination between visitors and ‘infected’ objects.

If you’re more inclined to watch rather than take part, there are plenty of non-interactive exhibits – music based on an immune system, evolving art and sculpture installations, a salmonella attack on the human stomach retold as an epic Irish myth, magnified samples of famous and notorious viruses and bacteria and a selection of cultural and informational materials from through the years showing how our perception of disease and infection has changed. You can also watch and listen to the reactions of daphnia water fleas as infectious material is introduced to their environment.

One of the really interesting aspects of this show is how the exhibition looks at the way in which diseases are still presented to us. Whereas we can all agree that germs aren’t exactly cute and cuddly (apart from these ones,) a section called Stigmatised explores “how visual representations inform our knowledge, inner fears and aversion to illness,” though if their intention really is to question whether or not we’re just being alarmist, their May 14th discussion with a US Army bioweapons expert may prove a little anithetical to this.

The exhibtion isn’t just about disease, though – there are sections dedicated to how information is disseminated (including a look at viral marketing) and a look at human movement patterns, both globally and socially. The gallery has also launched a competition on buzzfeed.com to create a viral campaign that will collectively get them one million page views.

The exhibition runs from April 17th through July 17th, 12:00-20:00 Tuesday-Friday and 12:00-18:00 Saturday-Sunday. Admission is Free. It’s probably fairly clear that really young kids may not appreciate this, but please also note that the website warns that the exhibition is not suitable for the under-15s. More details are here. Whether you’re going or not, be sure to download the Exhibition Guide (.pdf), detailing what you can expect and fantastically designed to look like a government emergency procedure leaflet.

[Post by new GeekDad writer John Madden]

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