This, say scientists, is what a superwoman looks like
THE body beautiful? Well, hardly. With claw feet, bat ears and a truncated torso, she looks like a creature from The Lord Of The Rings.
Yet this strange-looking person is in her way the perfect specimen, because if we were all built like this, we would never go deaf, heart attacks would be a thing of the past, and it would be virtually impossible to tumble over.
The fact is that the human body, although fantastic, is very far from perfect.
As an anatomist, I know that millions of years of evolution have left us littered with glitches and, in my opinion, we are long overdue a makeover.
So when Roger Highfield, director of external affairs at the London Science Museum, challenged me to tweak our bodies for the better, I set about picking and choosing the best modifications from nature that would iron out the evolutionary design flaws. The results can be seen this week in a BBC4 documentary called Can Science Make Me Perfect?
My experiment is all about bringing art and science together to create a vision of what the perfect body could do and what it would look like – in the form of a strange new me.
In a way, we are victims of our own success because all it requires to win at evolution is that you survive long enough to pass on your genes. Once you’ve reproduced, evolution doesn’t care about you. That leaves us with weaknesses we can’t evolve away from.
What, I wondered, if we could shed bits of evolutionary baggage and seize the best that the animal kingdom has to offer? 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 and legs that are more efficient, I swapped my pale skin, vulnerable to premature ageing and skin cancer, for amphibious skin. It changes instantly from light to dark to let in light or block ultraviolet rays.
Our lungs aren’t a great design either. They get oxygen to our brain and vital organs, but the way they are constructed means we have never quite got rid of the old air before we breathe in new.
Birds have a different set-up that involves air being drawn into air sacs in the abdomen and chest. They contract to keep the air flowing through the passageways of the lungs in one direction. It means they don’t have to breathe out.
It makes absorbing oxygen into the blood and getting rid of carbon dioxide more efficient.
I screamed when I saw the final 3D model of my creation, made for BBC4 and the Science Museum by anatomical artist Scott Eaton and special-effects model-maker Sangeet Prabhaker. I don’t like the look of the birdlike legs. But having given birth to two children, I’m a big fan of having the kangaroo’s pouch.
Can Science Make Me Perfect? is on BBC4 on Wednesday at 9pm
THE NEW ME: Alice and the 3D model of how she would look with modifications from nature