The Human Experiment: Two Years and Twenty Minutes Inside Biosphere 2
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The Human Experiment: Two Years and Twenty Minutes Inside Biosphere 2

3.47 of 5 stars 3.47  ·  rating details  ·  137 ratings  ·  43 reviews
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...more
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published August 18th 2006 by Basic Books (first published August 17th 2006)
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Benjamin Plaggenborg
I've been looking into books about the actual study of people in psychologically strange circumstances. This is one, where eight people were closed inside a massive, airtight greenhouse for two years. In it coalesce the stories of hippies striving for environmental harmony, hard science, space-age oriented, unforgivably efficient agriculture, human psycho-drama and a science mystery-thriller. Now, the reader may wonder, how in the world is this not the top selling book of the last few decades? A...more
Jay Allan Storey
'The Human Experiment' is a must-read for anyone who still questions the complexity or fragility of our planet’s environment.

It’s the story of eight ‘biospherians’ who spent two virtually uninterrupted years in the early 90's inside a sealed environment called ‘Biosphere 2’ (Earth is Biosphere 1) designed to duplicate Earth’s ecology on a smaller scale. No material was allowed in or out during the entire two years. All food, water, and even the air they breathed was produced within the 3.8 acre...more
Interesting experience - but the book delves into the politics of the situation too much and not enough in the experiences in the Biosphere.
Interesting recap of the Biosphere II experiment. Unfortunately, the book is badly edited.
We were in Tucson last month, and toured the Biosphere 2. Being a scientist myself, I was intrigued with the science involved in this endeavor. Upon returning home, I borrowed this book from the library. I found the story fascinating, and it especially helped, having toured the grounds, to envision the life of eight Biospherians as they worked in the hermetically sealed environment for two years. Two years and twenty minutes, counting the closing ceremony speeches by Jane Goodall.

The book howeve...more
While Biosphere was big news, I must have been otherwise occupied with concerns like love, work, children, and U.S. intervention in Central America. I had no idea who had created it and what the controversies were surrounding Biosphere 2, its real name.

Jane Poynter describes the basic science involved in the project, but better than that, she reveals juicy secrets about the organization--and lack thereof--and the bizarre machinations of its leaders.

I was involved with a fairly cosmopolitan comm...more
Theresa Foxx wishert
An amazing report on this experience of 8 people who existed in biosphere 2 for 2 years. Sealed inside biosphere 2, these 8 had to work to maintain their knowledge of monitoring all systems and growing enough food to eat, although it was starvation rations. The things learned from this experiment are astounding, and probably not all entirely expected. Would strongly recommend for anyone with a science background who is always seeking new ideas.
Kim Godard
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I visited Biosphere 2 recently and wanted to know more. What a fascinating story. I had assumed that Biosphere 2 was a true scientific program from the start. But the history behind it was very surprising, from the cult-like group Synergia, to the fact that most of the Biospherians weren't trained scientists. That they had no research plan whatsoever when they went in and that they didn't even bother to do a trial run before the two year closure was mind-boggling to me. The fact that soon after...more
Jun 25, 2011 Rick rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2011
Oh man I am totally obsessed with Biosphere 2 again. This was exactly what i needed. The information on the web is pretty paltry, so this was a solid behind-the-scenes account of what was going on. I will probably need to read one more book on the subject - either John Allen's or Abigail Alling's. There was so much contention, and all the participants - inside the dome and outside - fell into two warring factions. Jane's book seems pretty even-handed and logical, and I can't help but feel sympat...more
The author of this book, Jane Poynter, was one of the eight people who stayed inside Biosphere 2, just north of Tucson, for two years (1991-93). It's a good read, and I found it extremely interesting. Aside from some technical problems they had to deal with, the most difficult problem they faced was social/psychological. They broke down into two groups: Us vs. Them. Reading her account of their standoff makes me wonder if, perhaps, through eons of evolution, we are just genetically wired with an...more
I was skeptical at first of this book, but once I started reading it I could not put it down. I found the author to be honest in her assessment of the situation. Although told from her point if view she handled this controversy story well.
I picked this up after visiting Biosphere2. I loved my trip there and wanted to learn more about the experiement. This book was written by one of the women who lived inside the Biosphere2 for two+ years.

It was a great read. While I'm sure it was slanted to her experience and beliefs, it really was a page turner. I think even if you haven't been to Biosphere2, you'd get a great sense of what it was like, what the conditions were while living there.

I hope another Biospherian writes a book someda...more
Dec 03, 2007 Selene rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: all those interested in rifts, fissures, and enclosed spaces.
Shelves: nov07
This was a more balanced account (and by balanced I mean, seething with venom) of life inside the Biosphere 2 than the last book I read. It was dishy, with plenty of trash talking, but genuinely interesting as an account of the study of biospheres and ecological science. It also had the slightly unpleasant effect of making me realize how thoughtless I had been when my ex-boyfriend went and worked on a station in Antarctica for a year, back when I was but a youth. Sorry I hardly ever returned tho...more
Philip Hollenback
This was an interesting book, written by one of the actual Biospherians. The beginning was a slow slog as her writing was fairly amateurish and there was a lot of background info. However, the description in the middle part of how these 8 people actually survived in Biosphere 2 for 2 years was well worth the read. In particular, you really learn about the horrible interpersonal problems that plagued the project.

After reading this book I wish someone would do more Biosphere 2 projects. There's a...more
This is one of those inevitable memoirs (Voluntarily stuck with 7 other people in a "model Earth" for 2 years? Tell me more!) and as such it could have been atrocious. But Poynter is what my hippie parents would admiringly call "a real character", and she manages to write both a juicy tell-all and a sympathetic, funny account of 1990s-era "closed system" ecology. Plus she takes the air out of all those Biosphere 2 rumors (They forgot to add ants! The cockroaches took over! There was no wind!) by...more
Jul 25, 2007 Sarah rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Scientists or non-claustrophobes
I was really surprised by this book - most "I was part of a historic event" autobiographies are very pat, almost boring. "Yes," they seem to say, "it was a great experience, and we triumphed through adversity, etc., etc." Poynter's tale is almost gossipy (in the best way) about all the bad and good that went down in the Biosphere (one of her fellow biospherians spit in her face!), but was still (at least to my reading) a pretty balanced account of what went on before, during, and after her Biosp...more
Amazing book. Remarkably well written and good coverage of the biosphere project. I admit to prejudice because I am a behaviorist. I was and still am fascinated by the idea that such a lot of money would be spent on such an endeavor. It all seemed both pretentious and portentious, we humans have such egos and delightful foolishness. Jan Pynter's book clearly reveals the flaws, oversights, and day to day struggle to live there. Anyone interested in small group phenomena should read this book. I e...more
Chris Seals
This was interesting. I wouldn't have chosen it to read, had my friend not given it to me. Seemed like they learned more about the science of psyche than they did biology/ecology. I do remember fondly, my experience visiting Biosphere in the mid-nineties, with my Mom and Dad. Dad was so, I thought it was interesting, but Eeeah! Dad bought a cap with the Biosphere logo on it, so that he could talk to anyone that would listen, about Biosphere. It was a "good conversation" as he sai...more
Jennifer Glass
Interesting synopsis of life inside Biosphere 2 and its history. The closed-system ecosystem concept and its experiment in the early 1990's makes for good reading. I would have appreciated slightly less long-winded philosophical droning on, but I appreciated Jane's honesty about the goals of Biosphere 2 and the psychological stresses of the 2-year "experiment". Definitely a good read before visiting Biosphere 2 itself. Wish I'd read it before instead of after visiting, in fact!
We visited Biosphere 2 last winter and were told of this book.

Good read by one of the participants of her experience. Not only the many experiments on soil, environment, ecology, but on the effects to the participants. All did not go well between the girls and boys. But apparently nothing different than what goes on between others sequestered away, such as Antarctic explorers, astronauts, etc.

It was a historic step towards making life on other planets imaginable.
I read the first 2/3 of this just before, and finished it just after, getting a behind-the-scenes tour of Biosphere 2 from Jane's husband and fellow Biospherian Taber Macallum. While I thought that Taber did a better job of explaining the scientific and engineering challenges that they faced, and Jane has a few inelegant turns of phrase throughout this book, I found it to be a fascinating view of this incredibly complex marvel of human accomplishment.
Great behind-the-scenes story of Biosphere 2 in Oracle, Arizona, 20 miles north of Tucson. Want to know what it's like to live in a controlled, sealed environment for 2 years with 7 other people? Read this book! Ever doubt how much one ecosystem affects another or how necessary microbes, bacteria and the rainforest are? Read this book! Want to understand how imbalances in O2 and CO2 affect life -- ditto for reduced calorie diets? Read this book!
Interesting read so far...damn, I need to focus on one book...but oxygen levels are dropping and communes without drugs???

So, after reading it...its a little preachy, but it's like that scene in Jurassic Park where the actor that plays Newman on Seinfeld steals the dinosaur embryo and shuts down the power and you just think "man, this could have been such a great park if humans didn't screw it up!"...
Since my tour of Biosphere 2 recently, I've wanted to read more about the story. I could tell from the hints that the tour guide gave, that there was a story behind the story. And this book tells it. The story of
Biosphere 2 became a story of human interaction and conflict as much as a story of ecological research. It helped that I'd visited the biosphere, it made it all more real to me.
I toured Biosphere 2 when I was in Tucson for the gem shows, found it fascinating. I borrowed the book, written by one of the original inhabitants of the project to get the 'inside scoop'.
The process of the project was interesting, the human dynamics even more so. But if you haven't been through the site I don't think you would care to read the tale. Good, but a little long for what it is.
One of the crew of the initial Biosphere 2 mission tells her story. This was interesting to read after reading Dreaming the Biosphere as Poynter gives her view of the split that happened with the eight-man crew. I also got a better picture of her work at Synergia Ranch and around the globe in various Synergian ventures. Now to read the book written by the couple in the other faction.
I visited Biosphere 2 recently and was FASCINATED so I wanted to read someone's memoir who had lived inside.
This lady is not the most exciting writer ever, but the story is so crazy that I finished it in one sitting. I can't believe they locked these people in a giant greenhouse for two years and basically made no provision whatsoever for the psychological effects?!
Kater Cheek
I've wanted to visit Biosphere 2 for a while now, and remember hearing about it back when it was first up and running in the early nineties, so I couldn't resist reading about it. The author was one of the first crew members, so she knows the subject well. It would have been a stronger book if she had gotten some help writing it.
Leonid Korogodski
Written by a true enthusiast. The author was a long-time member of the Synergias faction that created Biospere 2, but she took the anti-management side in the internal conflict that is well shown in the book. But the jumps from the conflict to the everyday happenings in Biosphere 2 and back again are somewhat jarring.
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