Thursday, April 9, 2009

Biosphere 2

April 8 we went to Biosphere 2 with Kim and Jim Waddle. It was good that Kim was there, seeing as how I reformatted my SD card before I uploaded my pictures to the PC. I guess it was a senior moment. So, all the Biosphere pictures are courtesy of Kim. Thank you Kim.
This is the welcoming rock.

This structure encloses the the various biomes of the Biosphere.

The beach biome.

The rainforest biome. The rainforest was just recently opened to the public.

Biosphere 2 was built beginning in the mid-80s with private money. At present it's owned by CDO land developers and leased to the UofA. The U is using the structure for environmental studies and education. One of their recent experiments was to determine the effect of drought on Pinion Pines. Being a member of the black thumb gardening club, I could have predicted the outcome, they die! It costs about $1M per year for electricity to run the facility. Currently the Biosphere is well funded with private money and public grants. It's a cool thing and I'm glad they didn't tear it down, but we were all struggling with exactly what it was that they're learning there.
Anyway, the 'greenhouse' part of the structure is not the coolest part. It's the basement. There are miles of water pipes, wires, water reclamation and filtration. The engineering that went into the design of the buildings is mind boggling.

Biosphere 2 was originally airtight. The purpose of the structure was to mimic Biosphere 1, the Earth. During the day, the air expands to the extent that it could blow out the windows. At night, windows could implode with the contraction. So, there's a geodesic dome containing a huge membrane that can expand and contract as the round metal disk moves up and down. It's connected to the main structure via a 200 foot tunnel. It's the "lungs" for the Biosphere.

The guide opened the door and you could see the metal disk move down. It's floating on air pressure.

The Biosphere's first mission was troubled. They could not produce enough to eat, and so were living on 1,200 calories a day. Oxygen production was also flawed, they were essentially living at 13,400 feet. Subsequent missions were even more troubled. For more info, go here.

Today was a calm day, so we went out on the bikes for a ride. We saw this in downtown. It's a shrine called El Tiradito. It's the only shrine in America dedicated to the soul of a sinner buried in unconsecrated ground. Apparently the death happened in the 1870s due to a love affair gone wrong.

Look at the fence. Those are ocatillo ribs that have been stuck in the ground and rooted. So, they're making leaves and blooming.

It was a very pleasant day with low wind and comfortable temperatures.

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