Thursday, August 20, 2009


Couldn't resist digging this one out. In 1997, I was finishing my first year of grad school in the University of Arizona department of meteorology (that summer I switched to hydrology). Biosphere 2 was nearby and had just finished the second mission of people living in it. "Biosphere 1" is the regular earth around us. Biosphere 2 was a ginormous greenhouse that was completely sealed, as an experiment to see if, for example, people could live in a similar deal on the moon.

Maybe this story is apocryphal, but I remember hearing that a worker had hidden a bottle of liquor inside the complex. It was meant as a surprise and upon discovery, there was supposed to be drunken merriment all around. Apparently things had devolved into such personal conflict that one of the Bionauts found the bottle, stashed it away and drank it in private.

Anyhow, in 1997 Columbia university had recently purchased it to turn it into something like an environmental science teaching lab. They were courting Arizona researchers to come collaborate. I got to go on a complete tour of the place, from the cavernous lungs and the living quarters to the filtration tanks in the basement (water was run over large mats of algae, to take out the carbon or something, I'm not sure). This picture is me in the master control room, sitting at what appears to be a Sun Microsystems SPARC computer.

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