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article imageMapping the Human Body

By Digital Journal Staff     May 13, 2005 in Science
At ideaCity04, one presenter was so overflowing with information that host Moses Znaimer had to enter stage right and patiently sit beside him, a silent reminder to wrap it up. But you couldn’t ask Alexander Tsiaras to gloss over the wonders of the human body, from blood flow to cell mutation.
During his presentation, he showed images from his visualization software company Anatomical Travelogue, whose clients include Nike, Pfizer and Time Inc. Tsiaras and his 25 employees take data from MRI scans, spiral CT scans and other medical imaging technologies, and use them to create scientifically accurate 3D pictures and animations.
In 2003, his book of images of fetal development, From Conception to Birth, sold 150,000 copies and his latest work is Part Two of this fantastic voyage, The Architecture and Design of Man and Woman. For a chapter on sex, Tsiaras even scanned an employee doing the deed with his girlfriend — all in the name of science.
Tsiaras spoke with Digital Journal about his desire to show us exactly what we’re made of.
Digital Journal: Why are you fascinated by the human body?
Alexander Tsiaras: Fundamentally, any kind of system that is curious has internal conversations with itself. I don’t know a lot about astronomy or geology, but there are other ecosystems that have “conversations.” But I know a lot about the body and it fascinates me.
But realize I’m not a biologist; I’m a visualization expert. Our science illustrates other sciences. As Einstein once said: “Solving the problem is not difficult; visualizing the problem is difficult.”
Digital Journal: Can’t we get enough about the body in medical textbooks like Grey’s Anatomy?
Alexander Tsiaras: Grey’s Anatomy is a brilliant, massive volume of information but it’s still a guy in a white coat telling us what’s going on. The biggest problem is apprehension. We want to create an environment where a person walks away saying, “Holy shit, I finally get it. I finally get the marvels of birth, how leukemia works.”
Digital Journal: Watching your presentation, I learned that my lungs, when laid flat, are the size of a tennis court. I learned that we have 40,000 miles of nerve endings, sometimes just to record a single touch. I’d assume this is information most people would appreciate.
Alexander Tsiaras: My job, from an artistic perspective, is to tell a compelling story that is also beautiful. It’s not revolutionary, but you have to add up incremental leaps. For instance, there are hundreds of books on the psychodynamics of children, but what physiologically happens to them?
Take a look at how fast a baby grows: At zero, they’re maintaining focus on sucking air, and then two years later they’re walking, and then a year after that they’re getting a yellow belt in karate. Looking at the growth of a child at time of birth, if he grew at the same speed he grew in his first month for his entire life, he would weigh 1,500 pounds by the time he was five years old. Everyone has enough knowledge to say, “Wow, that kid is growing exponentially!” but what exactly is happening? That’s what I’m here for.
Interview by David Silverberg. For more information, check out

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