10/21/17 Week in Cottonwood, AZ
We rested-went out to dinner twice for liver and onions then for prime rib. We read books and social media. The one exciting event was my sighting of a couple of Javelinas (collared peccaries), wild pigs, that were trying to get into a bucket of shells.
10/23/17 Monday in Tucson, AZ
This group of buildings were completed by 1987, with the largess (money) from Mr. Ed Bass, a Texas millionaire. I think it took around $200 million. He wanted buildings that would be completely sealed off from the outside world (Earth/Biosphere 1) so scientific research inside them could be protected from the vagaries of nature. Our earth has 4 spheres: Geosphere (rocks), Hydrosphere (water), Atmosphere (air) and Biosphere (living beings). The buildings include these major Biomes: Rainforest, Ocean, Savannah, Fog Desert and LEO (landscape evolution observatory). Also there are the Upper Habitat (living quarters when 8 scientists lived for 2 years in this sealed environment) and an Energy Center (that ran all the machines that ran these environments). The above ground glass enclosed facility (including all of the above except the Upper Habitat and Energy Center) is 3.14 acres (91 feet tall at the highest point, in the Rainforest).
Below are some of the machines, wiring, ducting etc. that keep everything going. They take up ¾ of the area covered by the glass enclosures that are above.
It was down below that we got to experience the “Lung”. Note that when an enclosed space like a car is exposed to the heat of the desert, if it is sealed, the air inside expands and must escape. Thus it will explode the glass to the outside of that car. Alternately, in the very cold of the desert night the air the inside of the car contracts, creating less pressure than the air outside, so the glass/windows will implode from that outside pressure, leaving broken glass inside the car. Naturally this couldn’t be allowed to happen in the scientific glass buildings above, so a “Lung” essentially takes in air from the outside and expels inside air when the pressure demands it. Note that the dome (in the image below) has legs. The black material attached to the inside dome is also attached to the wall of the “Lung” building. The movement of air pressure causes the dome to lift and fall (until the legs reach the floor). Before we left, as a door was opened for our “escape”, air rushed out and we could see that dome fall. We also experienced quite the rush of air pulling hats and glasses forward as we walked out. So cool!
We enjoyed the Habitat area where the 8 people lived. Each had their own 2 story apartment (bedroom upstairs) and daily communication with the outside world. Rotating every day, each was responsible for all the meals in a 24 hour period, starting with the evening meal. I asked why they ended that living experiment. Our docent explained that they’d spend so much time operating the machinery and caring for what would become their food (fruits, veggies, chickens (eggs), goats (milk) and pigs (waste management)). As our docent explained, nature provides our food for free. What costs is having it brought to us. Because they had little time for scientific research, which was what Mr. Bass wanted most of all, then that part of the experiment ended. Originally they’d planned to have people live there for 2 years (1991-1993), then different people on a yearly basis for 100 years. Yes, those buildings are meant to continue for 100 years total. It’s been 30 years at this point. [Note: in the Wikipedia entry on Biosphere 2 it gives other reasons for the ending of this closed environment for people element)].
After people living in that sealed environment ended, various Universities did experiments there until Columbia University purchased the area. They experimented with increasing the CO2 in that environment, learning that plants died, along with the coral and fish in the ocean area. This was the first definitive scientific experiment to prove what we will experience as climate change progresses.
Later (2011) Mr. Bass gifted all this land and buildings, along with $20 million to the University of Arizona, to continue it’s mission of scientific research. This facility is the research arm of the U of A now.