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Winter 2008 Roundup: Coffee-Table Books

David Schoonmaker, Catherine Clabby, Fenella Saunders, Morgan Ryan, Anna Lena Phillips, Flora Taylor

Inside the Body: Fantastic Images from Beneath the Skin, by the Science Photo Library, edited by Victoria Alers-Hankey and Joanna Chisholm
From%20%3Cem%3EInside%20the%20Body%3C/em%3E.Click to Enlarge Image

For the task of deciphering what’s going on inside our bodies, the naked eye is sadly inadequate—unable to detect signals from most of the electromagnetic spectrum or to resolve life at the operational level of cells, ducts and integument. Medical laboratories are filled with technologies engineered to compensate for our sensory limitations: light micrographs, electron microscopes, x-rays, angiograms, magnetic resonance imaging, thermograms, ultrasound, endoscopes, gamma camera scans, resin casts and the like. Inside the Body (Firefly Books, 2007, $29.95 paper) takes those techniques on a spree, looking at the astonishing geography of our interiors: the skull beneath the skin, the gizzard, the glottis, the flyway of overlapping nerve fibers.

The scale ranges from an implausibly detailed resin cast of the capillaries in a kidney, to the reef-like cavities in spongy bone, to the jungle rot within a retinal cell that is destroying itself by programmed cell death.

There are showstoppers in abundance. Above, a scanning electron microscope image reveals the sensory hair cells that line the cochlea in the inner ear, arrayed in banks like the pipes of a church organ.—Morgan Ryan

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