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Vicious cooties

The coming plague...yes, yes, that same one that'll wipe out a third of our planet's human population like ick in an over-crowded fish tank. The experts say it's coming, that this earth is just too damn choked with people not to breed some kind of Yber-infection, one that'll kill every weak and weary victim in its path. From Ebola to the super flu to cryptosporidium, we're in way more trouble with a possible mass organic infection than with any millennium bug. And hell, with those crazy dictators and loner terrorists threatening us with bio-chem warfare, if our own morphing germs don't kill us, some carefully constructed bomb filled with the same will. Right? I mean, we've all watched 12 Monkeys. Twice.

Enough of this paranoid hype. To get the real scoop on wee beasties, take a turn around the Science Place, where the new exhibit Microbes: Invisible Invaders ...Amazing Allies tells it like it is. Starring such marquee idols as bacteria (Germicide!) and viruses (Outbreak), it also features supporting players fungi, and even the enigmatic protozoa, all in a kid-friendly interactive environment. Virtual reality and animation, theatrical settings and mondo special effects help draw the line between myth and fact.

Granted, more than 30 new infectious diseases have been recognized in the last 20 years. Strains are growing drug-resistant. Infections, in all their weird and powerful forms, remain the leading cause of death on this planet, and numero three in the United States. It's not a bad idea to arm oneself with information about it all and in the process learn about all the "good guy" germs out there--the kind that protect us from the more villainous ones. In essence, you'll walk out of the Science Place a quasi-expert on microbes. ("Hey, Bob--I think my killer strep throat has spawned a common cold." "Well, Ted, you must be the victim of bacteriophage, a virus that infects bacteria!") Or something like that.

It was 1683, after all, that Antonie van Leeuwenhoek first detected microbes, reportedly from his own tooth scrapings. Leave it to all those brilliant barbers-cum-doctors (in the Age of snail's-pace Enlightenment) to take another 200 years to figure out that these organisms cause disease. That's just it, though--at the Science Place, all the research has been done for you. Now all you have to do is go play in the germs.

Then go wash your hands.

--Christina Rees

Microbes: Invisible Invaders...Amazing Allies is at the Science Place in Fair Park through May 1. For more info, call (214) 428-5555.


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