Mrs Per­fect!

This, say sci­en­tists, is what a su­per­woman looks like

The Irish Mail on Sunday - - MORE - by Alice Roberts What if we took the best bits from the an­i­mal world?

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

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