Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Biosphere 2

What would happen if you locked up eight people in a self sustaining glass world for two whole years? That’s the question billionaire Edward Bass asked himself back in 1987. Rather than just speculate, he decided to build a self sustaining world and find out. (You can do that if you’re a billionaire).

Biosphere 2The self sustaining glass housing was dubbed ‘Biosphere 2’. (Biosphere 1 being the earth itself.) It was a fascinating experiment that was used to determine how changing one aspect of an environment would affect another. It was also hoped to be a proving grounds for space colonies.

I am a self-admitted science geek, but even if you’re not, you’re sure to be fascinated by a visit to Biosphere 2. It’s located an hour’s drive north of Tucson, in Oracle, Arizona. The country side is beautiful, so the trip up there will be enjoyable as well.

Once you’re there you are transported into an environment that’s simultaneously a trip through history and an examination into futuristic possibilities. The beautiful glass structure is as breathtaking as the photos we’ve all seen. Inside you’ll visit places like the ‘Command Center’ that houses equipment that was state of the art in 1991 but looks hopelessly antique today.

Ocean HabitatThe tour takes you through the artificial environments encased in the Biosphere, including the rainforest and the desert, which is right next to the ocean.

Rainforest HabitatYou’ll also see the “Habitat”, which is the living quarters for the people sealed inside the Biosphere. This was the most fascinating part of the tour for me. The tour guide explains one unforeseen aspect of the experiment: eight people locked up in relatively small quarters, isolated from the outside world and working almost all of their waking hours tended to get on each others nerves. Who would’ve guessed?

Biosphere 2 was all in all one of the coolest day trips I’ve made here in Tucson. But if you plan on going, you should do it soon. The Biosphere has been sold twice already, and the cost of keeping it operating means its future is uncertain.

Note that because the Biosphere 2 was originally designed as a research center, the interior of the Biosphere isn’t wheelchair or stroller accessible.

Visit the Biosphere 2 Web site at: