The arguments over what the perfect human body should look like have probably been going on since Adam and Eve noticed they were naked (for creationists) or since the first human ancestor realized that monster in the lake was actually a reflection (for evolutionists). Regardless of your belief, you most likely would describe the perfect human body as one that looks close to yours – minus a few pounds and plus a few muscles … unless you’re an anatomist, osteoarchaeologist, physical anthropologist and palaeopathologist who is obviously not happy with her swimsuit shape. That person thinks the ideal human body looks like an extraterrestrial … complete with pointed ears, emu legs and a baby’s head emerging from her navel. Really!
Alice Roberts is, in addition to all of those other jobs, a professor of public engagement in science at the University of Birmingham and the star of a recent BBC4 documentary called Can Science Make Me Perfect? If “perfect” is the star of a sci-fi movie, then Roberts accomplished her goal. She put together a team that included virtual sculptor Scott Eaton and SFX model maker Sangeet Prabhaker and generously donated her already fine body as the model to be made perfect.
Roberts and her team obviously took into account many of the imperfections all human bodies share – a spine designed for moving on four limbs, not two; a pelvis no longer wide enough for easy childbirth; feet with far too many bones for easy walking; skin that’s not made for all seasons; eyes and ear that don’t last until the warranty runs out on the rest of the body; and so on. The team looked at ways to improve on these problems by observing animals who are perfect in each of those areas and built a Roberts 2.0 with those features.
Roberts didn’t see her new “perfect” self until it was unveiled at the London Science Museum for the show and, while said that “I screamed when I saw the final 3D model of my creation,” she tried her best to put a positive spin on a face that looked a little like hers on top of a body that would have caused even Darwin to say, “Whoa!”
“Inspired by dogs, cats, cephalopods, fish, swans and chimps, my model has a better heart with more arteries than a human being, lungs that are more efficient, eyes with no blindspots, ears that pick up sound better, legs that are more efficient, and reptilian skin which reacts fast to block damaging ultraviolet rays.”
The pointy ears came from a bat and the giant three-toed emu legs are built for speed, not looks, but the thing that drags one’s eyes away from any sexy parts that were left (there weren’t) is the kangaroo pouch in her belly with a baby’s head poking out. Again, her public engagement side kicked in and Roberts tried to make it sound like a benefit.
“On reflection, I don’t like the look of the bird-like legs. But having given birth to two children, I’m a big fan of having the kangaroo’s pouch.”
On reflection, it’s a pretty scary reflection. Is this the way humans should look? Will we eventually evolve to this form … or are plastic surgeons and tattoo artists already transforming people (with a lot of money to spend) into it?
Sorry, Alice. Put that photo on a dating site and the only guys who will respond are Ridley Scott and James Cameron.