Jun 2002: Take a walk on the wild side in Biosphere 2 (2023)

Posted:

Advertisement

Advertise with us

  • Print
  • Email
  • Save to Read Later

ORACLE, Ariz. -- To be honest, I wasn't quite sure what the Biosphere 2 was until a recent visit. I vaguely remembered reading about a controversial scientific experiment involving people isolating themselves from civilization in a sealed dome, but knew little else.Still, the chance to explore the facility that had made news headlines worldwide, and perhaps inspired the current plague of reality TV shows, was irresistible. Although I'm no scientist, I figured that, at the very least, I'd see a cool, space-age building, and maybe learn something at the same time.I wasn't disappointed. My visit included about an hour walking around the facility, now operated by Columbia University, as part of the general admission tour, and then another 90 minutes inside as part of the new "World of Discovery, Under the Glass" tour. I left excited about science, and wondering whether my career choice would have been the same had I seen something similar at a younger age.Biosphere backgroundFirst, a little bit of background: Biosphere 2 was built in the high Sonoran desert at the foot of the Santa Catalina Mountains, about 30 minutes outside Tucson, Ariz., in the 1980s by Texas billionaire Edward Bass in hopes of creating a prototype for a self-sustaining human colony. The project was named Biosphere 2 in honour of the first Biosphere, the planet Earth.The goal was to replicate the Earth's major environments in a sealed dome and then see if and how a group of people could grow enough food and otherwise survive on their own. Bass spent more than $200 million US on the project.There were only two Biospherian missions, the first lasting two years, the second, a shorter period. The increasingly expensive project met with mixed success amid questions about whether the experiment was working.Bass ousted his original management team, decided to shift focus, and called in Columbia University for help.Assumed responsibilityIn 1996, Columbia assumed full responsibility for the site and turned the Biosphere into a research and educational facility dedicated to studying experimental climate-change science, including global warming. Today, there are educational programs for students ranging from elementary school age to graduate level.There are also tours designed to educate the public. The general tour, which is included in the $12.95 US price of admission (less for children), provides a broad introduction to the Biosphere, with a peek inside at some of the former Biospherians' living quarters and a gallery that allows viewing into the Biosphere's ocean habitat. Guided tours go hourly, but you can also take a brochure and explore on your own. Although this part of the tour is informative, I would have left disappointed had I not taken the more in-depth interior tour. If you're going to visit, I'd suggest paying another $10 for the Under the Glass tour.The Under the Glass tour, which debuted in February, focuses on the Biosphere's current scientific experiments. Visitors are escorted through the various labs' biomes, or separate ecological environments set up to mimic conditions found naturally in different parts of the world, ranging from savannah to ocean to coastal desert. Not only does the physical environment change from lab to lab, but the smells and temperatures do also.One moment it would be hot, and then, a few minutes later, it would be so windy and chilly that jackets were needed.Visitors also get a look at the Biosphere's innards, including the "lungs" that regulated air pressure when the dome was sealed. The Biosphere is no longer closed off from the outside atmosphere.When I walked through, I noticed that some of the labs had doors open to the outside, allowing fresh air -- and bugs -- to move in and out freely.Tour leadersThe only complaint I had was about the consistency and quality of the information available to visitors. Volunteers or non-scientist staff members lead most of the tours. As a result, tour guides occasionally contradict each other or do not have the answers to scientific questions. Also, if you're looking for dirt on the scandals that plagued the Biospherian missions, you're out of luck. The tour guides either don't know or aren't talking about what happened.The Biosphere is open for tours every day except for Christmas. But the Under the Glass tour is limited in offering and size and fills up quickly, so it's best to arrive early in the day or book tickets ahead of time.The facility is open to families, but the Under the Glass tour is only offered to those ages six and over. Some of the other attractions might also be better suited to older children, who have patience and can tolerate crowds. The Under the Glass tour also requires the ability to climb stairs. There are also special evening events, including stargazing at the center's observatory.The Biosphere is a 45-minute drive from downtown Tucson. There is a hotel on the premises, as well as a restaurant and snack bar. The prices are reasonable to expensive. Your lodging costs may also vary depending on when you visit. Winter and spring are peak tourism season, and hotel rates tend to drop during the summer.--Associated PressPHOTO

Read this article for free:

(Video) Pittsburgh 17 Point Playoff Comeback! Steelers vs. Browns 2002 AFC Wild Card Full Game

or

Already have an account? Log in here »

To continue reading, please subscribe with this special offer:

All-Access Digital Subscription

$4.75 per week*

  • Enjoy unlimited reading on winnipegfreepress.com
  • Read the E-Edition, our digital replica newspaper
  • Access News Break, our award-winning app
  • Play interactive puzzles
Continue

*Pay $19.00 every four weeks. GST will be added to each payment. Subscription can be cancelled anytime.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 08/06/2002 (7535 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

ORACLE, Ariz. — To be honest, I wasn’t quite sure what the Biosphere 2 was until a recent visit. I vaguely remembered reading about a controversial scientific experiment involving people isolating themselves from civilization in a sealed dome, but knew little else.

Still, the chance to explore the facility that had made news headlines worldwide, and perhaps inspired the current plague of reality TV shows, was irresistible. Although I’m no scientist, I figured that, at the very least, I’d see a cool, space-age building, and maybe learn something at the same time.

I wasn’t disappointed. My visit included about an hour walking around the facility, now operated by Columbia University, as part of the general admission tour, and then another 90 minutes inside as part of the new “World of Discovery, Under the Glass” tour. I left excited about science, and wondering whether my career choice would have been the same had I seen something similar at a younger age.

Biosphere background

First, a little bit of background: Biosphere 2 was built in the high Sonoran desert at the foot of the Santa Catalina Mountains, about 30 minutes outside Tucson, Ariz., in the 1980s by Texas billionaire Edward Bass in hopes of creating a prototype for a self-sustaining human colony. The project was named Biosphere 2 in honour of the first Biosphere, the planet Earth.

The goal was to replicate the Earth’s major environments in a sealed dome and then see if and how a group of people could grow enough food and otherwise survive on their own. Bass spent more than $200 million US on the project.

There were only two Biospherian missions, the first lasting two years, the second, a shorter period. The increasingly expensive project met with mixed success amid questions about whether the experiment was working.

Bass ousted his original management team, decided to shift focus, and called in Columbia University for help.

(Video) John Mayer -- Where the Light Is -- Live in LA -- 2007 -- [1080p] (Full show)

Assumed responsibility

In 1996, Columbia assumed full responsibility for the site and turned the Biosphere into a research and educational facility dedicated to studying experimental climate-change science, including global warming. Today, there are educational programs for students ranging from elementary school age to graduate level.

There are also tours designed to educate the public. The general tour, which is included in the $12.95 US price of admission (less for children), provides a broad introduction to the Biosphere, with a peek inside at some of the former Biospherians’ living quarters and a gallery that allows viewing into the Biosphere’s ocean habitat. Guided tours go hourly, but you can also take a brochure and explore on your own. Although this part of the tour is informative, I would have left disappointed had I not taken the more in-depth interior tour. If you’re going to visit, I’d suggest paying another $10 for the Under the Glass tour.

The Under the Glass tour, which debuted in February, focuses on the Biosphere’s current scientific experiments. Visitors are escorted through the various labs’ biomes, or separate ecological environments set up to mimic conditions found naturally in different parts of the world, ranging from savannah to ocean to coastal desert. Not only does the physical environment change from lab to lab, but the smells and temperatures do also.

One moment it would be hot, and then, a few minutes later, it would be so windy and chilly that jackets were needed.

Visitors also get a look at the Biosphere’s innards, including the “lungs” that regulated air pressure when the dome was sealed. The Biosphere is no longer closed off from the outside atmosphere.

When I walked through, I noticed that some of the labs had doors open to the outside, allowing fresh air — and bugs — to move in and out freely.

Tour leaders

The only complaint I had was about the consistency and quality of the information available to visitors. Volunteers or non-scientist staff members lead most of the tours. As a result, tour guides occasionally contradict each other or do not have the answers to scientific questions. Also, if you’re looking for dirt on the scandals that plagued the Biospherian missions, you’re out of luck. The tour guides either don’t know or aren’t talking about what happened.

The Biosphere is open for tours every day except for Christmas. But the Under the Glass tour is limited in offering and size and fills up quickly, so it’s best to arrive early in the day or book tickets ahead of time.

(Video) U2 - Bad (Live Aid 1985)

The facility is open to families, but the Under the Glass tour is only offered to those ages six and over. Some of the other attractions might also be better suited to older children, who have patience and can tolerate crowds. The Under the Glass tour also requires the ability to climb stairs. There are also special evening events, including stargazing at the center’s observatory.

The Biosphere is a 45-minute drive from downtown Tucson. There is a hotel on the premises, as well as a restaurant and snack bar. The prices are reasonable to expensive. Your lodging costs may also vary depending on when you visit. Winter and spring are peak tourism season, and hotel rates tend to drop during the summer.

–Associated Press

PHOTO

Advertisement Advertise With Us

  • Print
  • Email
  • Save to Read Later

Report ErrorSubmit a Tip

(Video) GAME OF THE YEAR WILD ENDING!!! Bills vs. Chiefs

The Free Press is certified by

(Video) 2002 World Series Game 6 (Angels vs. Giants) | #MLBAtHome

FAQs

What went wrong with Biosphere 2? ›

The failure, say several of Biosphere 2's current staff, lay in the lack of transparency—not the lack of oxygen. Scientists did, in fact, learn something important from what went wrong: the soil was too rich in organic matter, and its thriving bacteria gobbled up too much oxygen.

Was Biosphere 2 a success or a failure? ›

But the Biosphere 2 experiment really did happen. Running from 1991 to 1993, it is remembered as a failure, if it is remembered at all – a hubristic, pseudo-scientific experiment that was never going to accomplish its mission.

How long did people live in Biosphere 2? ›

Eight brave crew members locked themselves in the Biosphere for two years, determined to survive on their own with no outside help.

How did people in Biosphere 2 get clean drinking water? ›

Biophere 2 was the first closed ecological system to treat all wastewater. A leachate system allowed water draining through soils to be collected for reapplication. Potable water was supplied from condensate after 2-stage physical filtration and UV sterilization (Figure 2).

Do people still live in Biosphere 2? ›

On April 4, 1994, two former Biospherians – Abigail Alling and Mark Van –- headed down to the dome in the early hours of the morning, opening doors and smashing glass panels to allow outside air to flood into Biosphere 2, forcing the experiment to end. Since then, nobody has lived in Biosphere 2.

Does Biosphere 2 still exist? ›

Columbia ran Biosphere 2 until 2003, and eventually the University of Arizona took over. In 2011, Mr. Bass officially donated Biosphere 2 to the university, along with $20 million to support its research. Biosphere 2 still stands today, and science is still going on inside its walls.

Does Biosphere 2 have animals? ›

A total of 3,000 species of plants and animals coexisted in Biosphere 2.

How much does it cost to go to the Biosphere 2? ›

Admission is $20. Do a coupon search. They're offered regularly on line.

How many people lived in Biosphere 2? ›

Its mission was a two-year closure experiment with a crew of eight humans ("biospherians").

How deep is Biosphere 2 ocean? ›

The tank is 45.2 m long, 19.1 m wide and has two depths, 6.8 and 4.3 m (Fig. 1 and Table 1). The deep end of the tank is 16.9 m long and the shallow end of the tank is 28.3 m long.

How many years did a human can live? ›

While most of us can expect to live to around 80, some people defy expectations and live to be over 100. In places such as Okinawa, Japan and Sardinia, Italy, there are many centenarians.

Who were the couples in Biosphere 2? ›

Jane Poynter and Taber MacCallum kept their relationship alive inside Biosphere 2 and now they'd like to test their marriage on a long, risky flight to Mars. The couple spent two years inside Biosphere 2, emerging from the Southern Arizona experiment in contained living in September 1993.

What did they eat in Biosphere 2? ›

The diet was primarily vegetarian, with only small amounts of milk, meat and eggs from the system's domestic animals. The crew experienced 10-20 percent weight loss, most of which occurred in the first six months of the closure reflecting adaptation to the diet and lower caloric intake during that period.

Is Biosphere 2 air conditioned? ›

Even though the Biosphere's outside hatch was flung open long ago, the sealed HVAC system continues to maintain the delicate atmosphere each biome requires.

How did ancient humans drink water without getting sick? ›

“What people did way back in ancient times is they looked for water that was flowing or they used groundwater,” Padowski said. “Groundwater from deep down in the earth is often safer to drink because it's more protected from contamination.”

Can you stay overnight in Biosphere 2? ›

Our sleeping accommodations range from bunk beds perfect for student groups to upgraded VIP rooms for corporate events. Casitas are equipped with WiFi, air conditioning, bed and bath linens, and bath amenities.

Can you go inside Biosphere 2? ›

Biosphere 2 is Open with a Great New Experience!

Biosphere 2 is open every day (except Thanksgiving and Christmas) from 9am-4pm. There will be a limited number of tickets sold per hour and day. Once a limit is reached, interested guests must select another time and/or day.

Who owns Biosphere 2 now? ›

The University of Arizona assumed ownership of Biosphere 2 in July 2011. A generous gift from the Philecology Foundation helps fund Biosphere 2 operations and some research projects.

Why did the oxygen levels in Biosphere 2 decrease to dangerously low levels? ›

However, it is likely that a contributory cause of oxygen depletion (and CO2 increase) was the high organic matter content of the original soils (see later). Added to these problems, there was some air leakage, estimated at about 10% per annum, between the inside and the external atmosphere.

What is the problem of biosphere? ›

Pollution and waste management. Water quality in rivers and streams that flow into the marine environment. Impacts of climate change (storm surge, coastal inundation and erosion; inland flooding; increased fire risk; threats to human health, water supplies and infrastructure; and pressure on biodiversity)

Why did the Biodome ecosystem collapse? ›

The organisms in the biodome did not have enough energy storage molecules because there was not enough carbon in abiotic matter.

In what ways was Biosphere 2 successful? ›

Biosphere 2, the greatest experiment ever conducted in ecological self-organization, revolutionized the field of experimental ecology. We proved that a sealed ecosystem can work for years, a lesson Mars colony planners can build on. We learned lessons to help keep stressed reefs alive and how to protect rainforests.

How much does it cost to run Biosphere 2? ›

Biosphere 2 cost nearly $200 million to build, with an additional cost of about $1 million per year for fossil fuel energy to keep all the systems running. That averages out to about $25 million per human occupant for the two-year experiment.

What uninvited guests get into Biosphere 2 and caused problems? ›

An uninvited species, known as crazy ants, got into Biosphere 2 somehow and caused disruptions in the community. Not only did the ants put pressure on other organisms in the ecosystem, they clogged vents and chewed on wiring, creating quite a nuisance.

Can humans destroy the biosphere? ›

Human impacts on the biosphere

Acts like deforestation and burning of fossil fuels have negative environmental impacts which directly affect the biosphere. Carbon dioxide and emissions of various pollutants adversely effect all kinds of life forms.

What is the greatest danger to the biosphere? ›

The five biggest threats to our natural world … and how we can...
  • Changes in land and sea use.
  • Direct exploitation of natural resources.
  • The climate crisis.
  • Pollution.
  • Invasive species.
Oct 14, 2021

What is the biggest threat to the biosphere? ›

1. The atmospheric build-up of carbon dioxide, (causing global warming).

Videos

1. Wyclef Jean - Two Wrongs (Official Video) ft. City High
(Wyclef Jean)
2. 90's Ecstasy Clubland Part 1 (Sunscreem - Perfect Motion)
(Are Sounds Electrik?)
3. 2003 AFC Wild Card: Tennessee Titans vs. Baltimore Ravens | NFL Full Game
(NFL)
4. HOLYFIELD v TYSON II (BITE FIGHT) JUNE 28th 1997 LIVE
(Boxing Classics By Gary Wilson)
5. Walk the Line - Interview with Reese Witherspoon (2005)
(FilMagicians)
6. "WHAT IS GOING ON.." America Something Terrifying Is Happening (2022)
(Anonymous Official)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Zonia Mosciski DO

Last Updated: 11/29/2022

Views: 6057

Rating: 4 / 5 (71 voted)

Reviews: 86% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Zonia Mosciski DO

Birthday: 1996-05-16

Address: Suite 228 919 Deana Ford, Lake Meridithberg, NE 60017-4257

Phone: +2613987384138

Job: Chief Retail Officer

Hobby: Tai chi, Dowsing, Poi, Letterboxing, Watching movies, Video gaming, Singing

Introduction: My name is Zonia Mosciski DO, I am a enchanting, joyous, lovely, successful, hilarious, tender, outstanding person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.