Animated guide allows study of human body

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 19 April, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 19 April, 1994, 12:00am

THE most complex known object in the universe is the human body. And one of the best ways of exploring it is through another (to some) complex object - the computer.

While computers have become indispensable to scientists unravelling the mysteries of deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA - the molecule responsible for the transmission of hereditary characteristics from parents to offspring - and the inner workings of the brain, they have found, perhaps unsurprisingly, a medical niche in the home.

Software products range from anatomical guides to the digital equivalent of the first aid kit.

One particularly comprehensive reference to medicine and the human body is the authoritative Mayo Clinic Family Health Book.

Published on compact disc-read-only memory (CD-ROM), this stunning production is packed with information about anatomy, keeping fit, modern medical care . . . indeed there seems to be something on almost every imaginable subject, from sex education to dealing with death.

Hundreds of animations and full-colour photographs let users peek into the body in ways not possible using traditional textbooks.

A floppy-disk title, Bodyworks, lets you study specific parts and systems of the body, from skin to bones, head to toe, right down to cell structure.

Animations explain the intricate functions of organs and other bodily systems in a logical easy-to-understand way.

Also available on floppy, Pharmassist is a package that may interest Hong Kong people, curious as they must be about all those anonymous pills in the little plastic bags dispensed by doctors, illustrations of pills, spoken pronunciations, and an explanation of their uses, dangers, interactions and generic and brand names.

Also included is a guide to abused drugs and a travellers' reference to the health risks of various countries (interestingly, according to this software, the United States appears to be one of the world's riskiest destinations health-wise).

Because of their popularity, the publisher, Software Marketing, has already announced plans for the release of both Bodyworks and Pharmassist on Mac and CD later this year.

On a lighter note are the medical simulators. Would-be surgeons can happily carve, poke and probe without endangering patients or making a mess of the kitchen table.

These ''games'' are surprisingly realistic with all the technology, tension, drama and triumph of a real operating theatre.