New School News

Science Isn’t Always Pretty: New School Professor Brings to Light Digesting Ramen Noodles

Of all the things I’ve been surprised I couldn’t stop watching, a short, stop-motion video of ramen noodles digesting inside a human body, shot by two small cameras embedded inside of capsules that the subjects swallowed, whose images were then wirelessly beamed out to a computer, is one of the more odd ones. I’m not alone – the video has racked up 1.7 million views in just a few months.

It’s the brainchild (stomach-child?) of Stefani Bardin, a New School professor who’s taught at Parsons, The New School For Public Engagement, and Eugene Lang College, and her collaborator Dr. Braden Kuo, director of the GI motility laboratory at Massachusetts General Hospital at Harvard University.

The video, released as part of the TEDxManhattan’s “Changing the Way We Eat” conference, shows the digestion process of two very different meals. One set of participants was fed store-bought processed ramen noodles, Gatorade, and gummy bears. The other set was fed homemade noodles, hibiscus tea, and gummy bears.

“You can see the green tinting of the GI tract on the left,” Bardin says about halfway through the video, her disembodied voice overlaid with two hexagonal shots of noodles at different stages of digestion. “That would be from the blue Gatorade. It gets its color from the artificial ingredient Brilliant Blue, or Blue Number 1 . . . that’s why the presence of a color is still recognizable.” After more than two hours, the shape of the artificial noodle is still almost wholly intact in the digestive system, while the homemade noodle is all but dissolved.

With the project, Bardin hoped to “blend an artistic conception grounded in scientific experiment,” as she told USA Today’s College section.  “One of the things I was really interested in was using this technology to do a project around what processed or homemade foods look like going through the body.”

Professor Bardin will be teaching Media Toolkit in the fall semester at Eugene Lang College.

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