7 gross wonders across America

Oct 23, 2012 -- 8:27am

7 gross wonders across America




Gross is everywhere.

It's in the food we eat: in the cheese that shares chemical properties with bad breath and stinky feet and in the bread that is leavened by microbial excretions. It's in nature: in the viruses that make us sick, in the monstrous shape of reptiles and deep-sea fish and in the terrible parasites that torment them.

Of course, we ourselves might be the greatest source of grossness. We carry it with us, in our blood and guts. Anytime someone's insides end up outside, you are definitely in the presence of the gross.

It seems obvious that our repulsion from the gross is rooted in our fear of death. We may pretend that we are our own masters, but deep down we suspect we are really the victims of nature and fate. The things we spurn as gross are the things that rub that dismal knowledge in our face.

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But fear is only half the story. Old medical devices may look like implements of torture, but they were used for healing. Gruesome medical specimens show us the miraculous functioning of the human body. Horrific germs and grotesque insects embody nature's endless ingenuity, its ability to exploit any niche and fill the empty spaces with living things.

If it's true that the universe can be known in a grain of sand, then it can also be known through the gross -- and that's much more entertaining than staring at a tiny bit of gravel. If you resist the impulse to flinch and take the gross on its own terms, you will unlock a universe of discovery and even enjoyment.


With its water dyed ruby-red from wickedly toxic chemicals left over from aggressive strip mining, the Berkeley Pit is the crowning jewel in the nation's largest contiguous Superfund site. Not so gross to look at, right? Brace yourself for the next photo.


This repulsive item, a pathologically enlarged colon -- a megacolon -- is on view at the Mtter Museum of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia. Untreated Hirschsprung's disease, causing chronic constipation, resulted in this massive 8-foot-long organ. A wax model of a normal-sized colon is displayed below. Ewww.


A hair bouquet: gross or gorgeous? Leila's Hair Museum is full of unexpected haircraft.


Artifacts, artworks, photos and more explore facets of death and beauty. Visitors to the Morbid Anatomy Library will encounter a range of topics, from natural history to medicine to the arcane.

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