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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A day with Mary Roach

I drove to Ohio State University (five hours there and five hours back, sun in my eyes both ways!) to the Injury Biomechanics Symposium in order to hear Mary Roach speak about the use of cadavers (rather, Post-mortem human subjects or PMHS) in research, as she had learned a lot about them during the writing of her book, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers.  I also managed an interview with her, but before I continue, let me tell you a little about this day.

At the same hotel was the 2009 Ohio Tactical Officer's Association Training Conference open to Law OTOA-2009_Conf2.jpgEnforcement, Military and Corrections Special Training personnel.  Much like in the world of modeling*, here I saw a fantastic example of form following function: Each of these guys were built almost exactly the same. Without a doubt, they were physically fit and muscular (on the ready to fire on assailants, carry gear and take down the bad guys in hand to hand combat with ease).  They all were about the same height (maybe 5'8"- 6' ish as I guess that too tall makes you too much of a target. They all had very close hair cuts and primarily fine features (for wearing head and face gear, I suppose a large schnoz would not work so well) I will add, at the risk of sounding man crazy, that every last one of them was handsome. Maybe it was the overabundance of testosterone in such a small area overpowering me and playing tricks on me, but hey, it is merely an observation, subjective as it is. Mary did note that she felt very safe in the hotel. I believe we were!

At some point, despite me being quite enthralled with all areas of science and especially appreciating bioengineering, Mary and I thought it would be fun to see what this collection of men were doing at the hotel.  We learned they were there to be kept up to date on strategies and tactics of controlling various situations (that SWAT teams would control I suppose) including those specifically in tube-shaped vehicles with no lateral motion like buses, planes and subways (who knew, right??).  We also learned that, darn! we missed the weapons and gear displays the day before. Frown We were also invited to their get together the next day--twice! (Thanks, guys, for the invite--another time, maybe!)

Back to the Injury Biomechanics Symposium.  At these things, we inevitably have one quite inquisitive and opinionated researcher who makes his opinion known about every presentation...without fail.  At one point when Dr. Inquisitive stood up, the director coincidentally got up to leave and I turned to Mary and said "He's going to get the Ohio Tactical guys to come take him down!" and that got Mary giggling during the session. So enjoyable was this observation to her that she stole it for the Q & A after her talk which played out when one gentleman said "I'm sorry to say, I haven't read your books...." and Mary retorted, "Someone get the Ohio Tactical guys on him!" (audience laughter!) And, not one to disappoint, Dr. Inquisitive made absolutely certain to comment on the fact that we don't call cadavers "cadavers" anymore, but they are now called Post-Mortem Human Subjects.

bonksig.jpgYou can watch the interview in two parts.  The second part features a question from Carl Zimmer that Mary said had NEVER been asked before and she really appreciated it! It was a lovely interview, Mary is so wonderful.I'm new at interviewing on camera and she was just perfectly gracious. I do apologize for the background wooshing sound. I have a new mic and I thought this would help.

And in all cool-ness, when we discussed a potential topic for her 5th book (nope, won't tell you what it is about)  I was happy to share some pertinent and interesting facts that could be useful. <ahem> No thanks required, Mary, just mention me in a footnote! Wink


*Following Mary's lead, I figured a footnote would be appropriate here. Models would be primarily tall and thin, and there are good reasons having to do with optical illusions created by clothing why this is the prefered body type, but that's a discussion for another day.


Kindly, Joanne



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