The Face in your Bellybutton

Somehow, I missed out on being part of an excellent experiment at SciOnline a few weeks ago. A group of scientists and science communicators have teamed up to explore the “wildlife of the body” through Belly Button Diversity. They took samples from bellybuttons of various conference participants and let them grow in an agar solution. Now, you can see some of the results!

Your own personal biosphere!

As I looked at these, patterns began to emerge. I began to see… faces…

Go ahead. Try and tell me that’s NOT George Washington wearing a funny hat. I know what I see. Maybe this participant really likes the Founding Fathers?

Vader doing a head tilt as if to say, “Whaaa?” You do see it, right? Obviously, from the bellybutton of a Star Wars fan. Not surprising as the overall geekitude of the conference was delightfully high.

You see it, right? I haven’t found Jesus yet, which may be a microcosm of my entire life, but maybe you can do better. What else do you see in these images?

Before you write me off as totally bonkers, or at least more so than usual, I’ll tell you that I’m actually demonstrating the wonders of paredolia. Paredolia is a cool side effect of having brains that are so well evolved to detecting and monitoring the faces of our peers, or at least anything out there that wants to eat us. It is where some random visual can actually look like a face or person. Like Mary on toast. Or a face on Mars. Or Lenin in the shower. Or Darth Vader in bellybutton growth.

So, go enjoy your face-finding! Don’t forget to rotate the pictures various ways as well.

Also, there will be another navel-bug collection on Darwin Day, February 12 at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Science which is an excellent museum that we received a tour of during our visit. If you are in the area, go check out the critters on your body! After all, they do outnumber you

From the Human Microbiome Project

On a side-note, this would have been an excellent demonstration when I presented various cheek swab samples grown in agar for my 6th grade science fair. Which, by the way, showed no correlation between age and mouth population. At least in the willing participants in my family.

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