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A subway map of the gastric system.

Back in New York this weekend, I started paying attention more to the subway system map. Even after years away, I rarely need to check it, because its connections and interconncetions are so ingrained in my head.  It’s hard to believe there was once a time when it seemed overwhelming.

The Metropolitan Cardiac Authority, designed by Philip Gray

So I started what makes subway map memes so compelling. I stumbled across two on the fabulous Medical State of Mind tumblelog, told from the perspective of third year med student. The first is the gastric system as envisioned by Steven McGaughey. Everything from the liver to aorta to long words I don’t fully understand is represented. And in many ways, isn’t the gastrointenstinal system just one big subway system, as food makes its way through the hectic tubes and intertubes of the body?

Then there’s the Metropolitan Cardiac Authority, a series of stops, transfers and winding journeys that makes even New York’s Metro seem small and manageable. The Cardiac Authority oversees the “ventricles, atriums, aortic and pulmonic connections.” The only thing it’s missing is a legend, and it’s hard for the non-medical students among us to decipher which tubes and journeys the lines represent. (Obviously, we’re tourists.)

While the subway map meme isn’t showing many signs of letting up, these medical ones are a particularly strong example of how cool it is when you take a complex system and try to map it with the elegance of London Tube or New York subway map.

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An Xiao

Artist An Xiao (aka An Xiao Mina) photographs, films, installs, performs and tweets and has shown her work in publications and galleries internationally. Find her online at @anxiaostudio...

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