Biosphere 2: A 2-Year Catastrophe

Luke Davis

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In 1991, eight people went to be sealed inside the Biosphere 2 near Oracle, Arizona to spend two years inside a self sustaining habitat. It was a test, a project to see if we were ready to voyage to other planets. And, according to Time magazine, it was one of the worst ideas of the 20th century.  Biosphere means “the regions of the surface, atmosphere, and hydrosphere of the earth (or analogous parts of other planets) occupied by living organisms.”

Biosphere 1 is not another science experiment, but Earth. To mimic the Earth, they made a three acre futuristic glass complex. It was over nine stories tall, and included a rain forest, desert, ocean, swamp, savannah and small farm. It contained 5 goats, 2 pigs, 23 chickens. But for this amazing building to become a reality, someone had to pay. $150 million dollars, to be exact. Ed Bass, an eccentric heir to a Texas oil fortune payed, but John Allen was the designer and creator of Biosphere 2. He was also supposedly the cause of failure. He was the founder of theater commune called “Synergia Ranch”. The people who went into the Biosphere 2 were from the theater commune, and some hadn’t even gone to college. You can see the problem. This was supposed to be a major scientific experiment, and they used random people from a theater commune. So because of this, Jane Poynter, after only 12 days, cut off the tip of her finger in a rice thresher. She had to leave the Biosphere 2 to get medical attention. Later, after she got medical attention, she came back in with 2 duffel bags. The news was covering all of this, so naturally, everyone freaked out. What did that bag contain? And didn’t going outside break the seal? The whole point of the Biosphere was not to get outside attention and not to break the seal. But it only broke one of the rules. Apparently the duffel bags were only full of drawings.

That was only the beginning. There was too much cloud cover, so the crops didn’t grow. Then the animals ate the dead crops. They killed the goats, pigs, and half of chickens, and began eating the grain that was meant for the animals. One guy who wasn’t even that overweight lost 54 pounds. And, since the Biosphere generates it’s own oxygen, the normal oxygen level, which started at 21 percent, dropped to 14. Weird stuff started happening. Sleep apnea made them crazy; they turned into kleptomaniac hoarders and started stealing from other people constantly. Jane Poynter, who could not point anymore, hallucinated about a time machine that took her to a cornfield, where she argued with her brother. The outside help turned so desperate they start pumping oxygen into it. So they accepted failure, but stayed in and stopped talking to each other. After two years they left, and declared victory. Everyone knew it was a failure, but not in the eyes of the film industry. It inspired a movie called “Bio Dome” a comedy. And now? It’s owned by the university of Arizona, one of the largest earth science centers in America.

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Biosphere 2: A 2-Year Catastrophe