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The Human Experiment: Two Years and Twenty Minutes Inside Biosphere 2by Jane Poynter
Synopses & Reviews
It's a story that has never been told...until now.
In 1991, a crew of four men and four women locked themselves into a three-acre, glass-and-steel structure in the Arizona desert where they would live for the next two years — cut off from the outside world — all in the name of science. They swore that nothing would go in or out...no food, no water, not even air.
Now, for the first time, one of those crewmembers tells the extraordinary tale of what really happened. In The Human Experiment: Two Years and Twenty Minutes Inside Biosphere 2, biospherian Jane Poynter takes readers on a riveting, fast-paced trip through shattered lives, love, fears of insanity, and inspiring human endurance.
For Poynter and the seven other biospherians, the experience was an exercise in survival: Low oxygen levels made their day-to-day existence like living on Everest...constant hunger made it nearly impossible to do all the exhausting work necessary to live...plus, they were faced with the overwhelming challenge of having to get along with each other.
The biospherians split into two factions of four, with the members of each group barely speaking to the others for most of the two-year mission — even though they'd entered the Biosphere as friends. Some of what happened wasn't pretty.
Still, they made many scientific accomplishments, particularly in the fields of earth science and isolated confined environment psychology. Time Magazine recognized their efforts, putting Biosphere 2 among the magazine's top-ten "Best Science of 1993" list.
The eight biospherians who closed themselves into the Biosphere emerged 730 days later...much wiser, thinner, and having done what scientists had said was impossible. The Human Experiment tells the whole story — the failures, the successes, and the lessons learned — of this life-changing experience and fascinating adventure.
"On September 26, 1991, Poynter, along with seven others, entered Biosphere 2, a three-acre, hermetically sealed environment, for a two-year stay. Their goal was two-fold: to demonstrate that humans could live under the necessary conditions for survival in bases on the Moon or Mars, and to conduct experiments to improve our understanding of ecosystems. In her first-hand account, Poynter describes all aspects of the much-debated project, from crew selection to life on the inside, while addressing the nature of the scientific undertaking and the politics that embroiled everyone associated with it. She is at her best recounting how the eight 'biospherians' devolved into a dysfunctional family and commenting on the import such patterns will undoubtedly have on long-distance space travel. Her analysis of the science is weaker, more congratulatory than incisive. She provides only a brief discussion, for example, on the addition of thousands of pounds of oxygen into the structure on two occasions despite the goal to make the artificial biosphere completely self-contained. While the writing is sometimes overly precious ('So, with as much emotional energy as the space shuttle has rocket power on liftoff, I launched myself into a life of adventure and discovery'), Poynter's story makes for instructive reading. (Sept. 12)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"This fascinating and well-written firsthand account of the joys and tribulations of being a willing guinea pig in a novel scientific experiment is highly recommended ..." Library Journal
"What a grand adventure! Jane takes us around the globe, under the sea, and to another world… literally." Jim Whittaker, first American to climb Mt. Everest
"Jane Poynter's vivid prose takes us on a fantastic adventure into the heart of one of the most innovative experiments of the past 30 years. The Human Experiment is a fascinating exploration of the human psyche and reveals, in a completely new way, our relationship with our environment." Dr. Jane Goodall
In 1982, Buckminster Fuller asked a group of unconventional idealists, "If you guys don't build a biosphere, who will?" Many scientists said it couldn't be done, doctors feared its inhabitants would be poisoned or infected by some killer bug. But, nine years later, the group of colorful mavericks accomplished the impossible, and four men and four women walked into the first man-made biosphere and sealed themselves into Biosphere 2. For two years they were completely cut off from the rest of the world, which they called Biosphere 1. The biospherians, as they were known, farmed all their food, recycled their water and even the oxygen they breathed in their hermetically sealed world. The rainforest, savannah, desert, ocean, and marsh became their in vitro test subjects for ecological research. But the glass and steel structure made a pressure cooker, their human foibles boiling to the surface in what some named the Human Experiment.
It was a bittersweet, life-changing experience, a period of zany antics and creative richness, nearly crushing deprivation and exhausting labor. It was a time of unexpected hostility and of an overarching unity of purpose, but they coped, and they won.
It's a story that has never been told until now. Imagine being sealed into a closed environment for two years — cut off from the outside world with only seven other people — enduring never-ending hunger, severely low levels of oxygen, and extremely difficult relationships. Crew members struggled to survive in Biosphere 2, where they swore nothing would go in or out — no food or water, not even air — all in the name of science. For the first time, biospherian Jane Poynter — who lived and loved in the Biosphere — is ready to share what really happened in there. She takes readers on a riveting, fast-paced trip through shattered lives, scientific discovery, cults, love, fears of insanity, and inspiring human endurance. The eight biospherians who closed themselves into the Biosphere emerged 730 days later much wiser, thinner, and having done what many had said was impossible.
About the Author
Jane Poynter is one of only eight people ever in history to live sealed in an artificial world for two years. Jane's preparation for Biosphere 2 involved training to survive in the Australian Outback and onboard a concrete research boat in the Indian Ocean and Red Sea. She was part of the Biosphere from the start, ultimately managing the farm where the crew grew its food.
She is now President of Paragon Space Development Corporation, an aerospace firm that she co-founded with several engineers and fellow biospherian, Taber MacCallum, while inside Biosphere 2. Since leaving the project, Jane has had experiments flown on the International Space Station, the Russian Mir Space Station, and the U.S. Space Shuttle. Currently, she and Paragon are developing life support systems for astronauts and Navy deep-sea divers — and Jane recently started Yogi and Company, a multi-media think tank.
Jane and Taber married a year after exiting Biosphere 2. They live in Tucson, Arizona, where they race motorcycles on weekends.
Jane has appeared on many television shows and has been interviewed for numerous magazine and newspaper articles about Biosphere 2 and her work in space and the environment.
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