So has that bio-dome research done any good so far?

Y’all probably remember a few years back when a bunch of people were going to spend 18 months in a bio-dome (maybe there was more than one such project) to, IIRC, research the best way to improve and maintain the enviroment. Anyone know what the results were, and if they’ve affected anything that’s happened since then?

The ecology collapsed in very short order. Please refer to David Suzuki’s From Naked Ape to Superspecies for more details which I am unable to recall at the moment.

It showed that everything has an effect. The concrete used to build it had a much larger effect than anyone guessed.

The results showed that the mix of people used can’t live together.

I think it proved that shutting off the oxygen supply results in no detectable difference in Paul Shore’s brain activity. Oh, wait…

One of my college friends actually studied “abroad” for a semester at BioSphere 2, so it’s still inhabited (as of 2 years ago, at least). He had a lot of cool stories, but I dunno about worthwhile research.

argh, that should be Pauly Shore

Sorry, no cite, but I remember watching a TV program that talked about the “mysterious” loss of oxygen. Despite the large number of plants, the oxygen content kept dropping. This was due to rocks and concrete–the oxygen oxidized them and thus was removed from the atmosphere. This is analogous to what happened when green plants started filling the atmosphere with oxygen. All over the globe, there is a layer of iron oxide (rust) that formed during this time. This stuff is all good to know if you want to build a base on Mars or the moon, because it won’t be so easy to pump additional oxygen in.

I seen something about a layer of bacteria covering the ground that helped suck out O2 as well. As far as being worthwhile, I’d say yes, it’s very valuable stuff we’re learning even if on the surface the project looks like a flop. I don’t want so sound preachy, but feel the urge to mention the old line about mistakes being very valuable learning tools; that an experiment that didn’t turn out the expected way can still be very important (I heard that all the time in University when the profs talked about setting up our undergrad experiments). As easy e mentions, this type of knowledge is very important for our future (?maybe?) terra-forming goals. I’ve seen several shows where NASA is doing research into recycling water and growing crops in the space ships. I’m pretty sure they’re right up to date on the biosphere info as to what to avoid doing and how to make improvements. It would be very bad to spend billions of dollars to send some people to Mars, set up a little dome, and have them all suffocate due to a bad choice in building materials or something similar that we could have found out back here. Closer to home, it’s quite important (although embarassing to the scientists) to find out how little we really know about setting up something like a biosphere; it shows that our understanding of ecology and engineering aren’t quite as “mastered” as we may have thought. Better to make such mistakes in a small, isolated closed-system than to assume we know it all already and start implementing our untested ideas on the real environment or sending astronauts as guinepigs to far-away places with a dome kit that “should work in theory”.

I agree. It may have seemed hokey, and overamibitous and overhyped, but the discoveries as to how serious the oxygen loss really was were important.

There were some threads about this a year or so ago and IIRC one of the posters (Padeye) had first hand (onsite) knowledge of some of the design challenges the project faced.

What Happened to the Arizona Biosphere?
http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?threadid=63718

Murder by nitrogen
http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?threadid=48038

Plants, oxygen, and us
http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?threadid=10297

Yep, Padeye is a good resource. I can give a host of details about the student progrom that is in place now. I was part of the first year’s class to attend (Spring of '97). Best educational experience of my life, in or out of school. I still stay in touch with some of the research staff there, and there is a lot of good research going on. Go to http://www.bio2.edu for a good look.

Very enlightening. Thanks all who contributed.

If the phenomena occurred in the artificial atmosphere would the same result occur in the atmosphere. Are our cities of concrete suffocating the world?

I don’t know specifically what the process is, but it probably happens all the time with concrete. The difference is that there is so much more oxygen available on the whole planet and more being made all the time and wind patterns… and just a tiney mass of concrete compared to atmosphere that it doesn’t do any harm in the outside world. In the biodome, there was a LOT more concrete to air mass by volume, and it was a sealed environment. After some O2 got taken up, more couldn’t just be “sucked in” from the local atmosphere like would happen outside at a construction site.

I always love piping in on these threads.

We gathered a buttload of data from all the sensors in the structure but I’m not sure how much became truly useful. The original experiment was more of a stunt than good science. There were many lost opportunities but the almost paranoid secrecy of the original managment alienated a lot of potential partners.

FWIW a bunch of us including members of the second crew all went to see Bio Dome together. We were the only ones laughing, at inside jokes no one else would understand.