Biosphere 2 Oracle Reviews
Trying to contain myself... Dec 04, 2010
It truly isn’t a biosphere any longer, more of a glorified green house. Though with all the wonders it houses, I would be better off describing it as a glorious green house!
Since there are already some good reviews here I will limit myself to supplementing those references. I’ll start with why I don’t think it remains a biosphere. Technically speaking, a biosphere is a self-contained environment. The facility was a true biosphere when originally constructed during the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. In fact, the site is probably most renowned for the initial mission it hosted – four women and four men lived here in isolation for two years from 1991-1993! Well, folks did enter through an airlock across the initial six months of the term, but a truly remarkable experiment.
The diet for the team on this first mission was primarily plant matter, but they had goats, chickens and pigs within and even raised tilapia. The only serious dilemma faced was oxygen depletion, cured by two injections in 1993 (the human inhabitants suffered fatigue from the deprivation, but pollinating insects were completely killed off and it proved an unfortunate boom time for cockroaches!). Much was learned from this unique mission, though a follow up mission was more like a soap opera (including being vandalized by members from the first mission) and abandoned early.
Since those days there has been financial turmoil and turnover in ownership. Today the research is managed by the University of Arizona, who is utilizing the facility to the utmost. The ability to play god and completely control the environment presents the opportunity to subject similar plant species to variances in moisture and temperature and gauge the results. The next big installation in the Biosphere is supposed to be building a giant mound within one of the structures to scrutinize how water drains, which might yield some locally beneficial lessons to this water starved parcel of the earth.
What really intrigued me at the Biosphere was the separate building serving as the lung for the facility. Much of the amazement comes from the premeditation – the structure was built in anticipation of pressure swings within the enclosed environment. If it gets too hot, expanding air might literally explode the structure, and, conversely, an unexpected chill might cause the place to implode on itself! The remedy was this breathing structure where a twenty ton metal disc was attached to an impermeable skirt. When things get hot, the expanding air rushes in and pushes the disc up (providing compression) and when chilly the disc forces air out to keep things stabilized. The disc was suspended when we entered its chamber, but our guide told us it would probably be resting on the steel support poles at night.
The really intriguing contraption was that they had positioned giant hammers on the top of four of the support poles such that if things got super hot and the disc was thrust to the top of its sanctuary, the hammers would smash windows to release the air! This entire facility was more air tight than the space shuttles when the original missions where carried out and our guide allowed us to grasp its power when we exited.
We were instructed to look at the giant disc when she cranked open the vault to let us out, and after several seconds you could see the humongous disc gently descending. Even though the air remained calm inside, the guide had thoughtfully forewarned the group to be wary upon walking out the exit passage. When you got in front of the door you where squirted through like a watermelon seed by the escaping air!
There are many other fascinating tidbits around the Biosphere, but I believe they have been admirably covered in related reviews. Closing comments on a few loose ends would include the cafeteria. They have a small café on the grounds where you can score food and drink, but the selection is pretty limited (oddly enough, a vegetarian would be hard pressed to dine here) even though the setting is quite comfortable and wonderful views accompany the outdoor seating. There was an unexpected surprise when I paid for admission, namely being informed that I could count it as a charitable deduction.
All in all, a very inviting and delightful destination which I highly recommend.
Part of the Stepson and Tucson travel blog
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Biosphere 2, where is Biosphere 1? Oct 07, 2008
Biosphere 2 is the only location on earth where man controls nature. Located in the shadows of the Santa Catalina mountains in Oracle, Arizona it represents the advent of man’s scientific taming of nature. It is said that this is the place where science lives, you have to see it to really grasp the meaning of the statement "where science lives". It is the world’s largest center for scientific research, outreach, teaching, and life-long learning about Earth and its living systems. Some have referred to it as science under glass or life beyond the biodome. It is indeed an experiment that reminds me of man’s constant need to understand certain things that God never meant for us to understand.
The Biosphere 2 is under the management and administration of the University of Arizona one of the nation’s highest achieving institutions, according to a report by the National Wildlife Federation and the Princeton Survey Research Associates International "Campus Environment 2008: A National Report Card on Sustainability in Higher Education" Oh' in case you are wondering where biosphere 1 is, it is the current environment you live in; the earth's life system as you currently know it.
The Biosphere 2 science experiment was a private venture by John Polk Allen and Margaret Augustine whose initial idea of the structure was for artificial closed ecological system. When it was first constructed in the late eighties (1987), the structure was to be used to explore the complex web of interactions within living systems in the biosphere as well as look into the possibility of colonizing outer pace with closed biosphere. The question at hand would then be "is it possible to do without harming mother earth?".
I joined the 11:45 a.m. tour, which was to last an hour and a half. Inside this huge enclosure were what they called 'representative bio domes'. The bio domes represented a rain forest, a desert, a savanna grassland , a fog desert , a human habitat and an agricultural land. As we went through one region to another, our tour guide went into detail to explain the processes the scientists went through and how certain experiments worked and others failed. He explained how the scientists had to learn to grow food inside the biosphere and survive by harvesting, cooking and eating what they grew within. Can you imagine staying inside a sealed building for two years without physical contact with the outside world? That’s what happened at the biosphere 2 in 1991, for the first six months researchers had to go in and out through an air tight door. Tough indeed, I could only imagine. We saw some coffee trees (if you know how coffee is grown, you know you will never have a cup of coffee for at least a few years).
The Biosphere experiment ended prematurely in 1994 due to financial difficulties. 1995 University of Columbia took over management. The management of the facility was taken over by the University of Arizona in June of 2007 after fears of the glass structure being closed reached were aired.
Here is some additional information for tours:
Tour Schedule: Opened daily from 9:00 am – 4:00 pm MST
Phone Contact: (520) 838-6200
$20 for adults
$18 for military persons
$18 for seniors above 62 years
$13 for children 6-13 years
$10 for students of University of Arizona with ID
Group rates are available for 20 or more people and K-12 student tours.
Enjoy, let me know your thoughts in a comment below.
Part of the Arizona Travels (4) travel blog
9 / 9 TravBuddies found this review helpful/trustworthy
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