Friday, September 21, 2007

Build It and Sometimes They Don't Come

An Arizona story of interest to anyone interested in notable failures. An excerpt:

Biosphere 2

The idea was that eight people would live in a 3.1-acre glass dome for two years. Their environment would be completely sealed from the outside world, and scientists would use the experiment to develop similar closed systems that could be used on other planets.The dome was built in Oracle, outside Tucson, and funded by Texas billionaire Ed Bass.

The first eight Biosphere 2 residents entered in September 1991. But three weeks in, the seal was opened. A woman had to leave temporarily because she cut her finger. Then came the December revelation that outside air was pumped into the experiment to ward off possibly dangerous levels of carbon dioxide. And that a machine was secretly installed to artificially recycle carbon dioxide. Also, a generator made electricity, not the solar power that the Biosphere 2 was supposed to run on.The project fell into a series of administrative and legal squabbles. A second crew entered in 1994 but left six months later.

The giant glass dome was taken over by scientists from Columbia University who wanted to study how rising carbon dioxide levels would affect plants.

Last year, Bass sold the property to - of course - a home developer. The dome is still open for tours, but it's unclear what will happen once the developer starts building a bunch of smaller habitats for humans.

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