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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

3.50  ·  Rating Details  ·  218 Ratings  ·  58 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
Amy For
Oct 05, 2015 Amy For rated it it was ok
So far (1st 2 chapters) the book seems to be "I grew up so rich that I didn't have experiences in Nature. I grew up so rich that it was hard for me to tell my parents that I didn't want to do the career they told me to do." Poor girl. Next she lives in an art gallery with a bunch of hippies and studies meditation. I was REALLY interested in the Biosphere 2 experience, but it doesn't seem to be about that. After reading other reviews that indicate there weren't SCIENTISTS in the dome, just rich h ...more
Mar 29, 2015 Kelsey rated it did not like it
This was the worst book I have read in a long time. I was so fascinated by the idea of the biosphere after seeing it in Arizona. But this book was just so poorly written. How the writer could take such a fascinating topic and make this so boring is incredible. First, it took getting through about a third of the book before we even got into the biosphere. Next, the most detailed writing was the lists of foods they ate, which seemed copied from a journal entry. Then I was so appalled at the lack o ...more
Feb 24, 2016 Debbie rated it it was ok
Several years ago we visited the Biosphere 2 in Oracle, Arizona with our son who was fascinated by the concept of a closed system environment created and inhabited by humans. Since then I found a used copy of this book written by one of the eight people who lived in Biosphere 2 for two years.

The book's title is well chosen because even though the original intent was to further science and research, human conflict and drama took center stage. The science community largely dismissed the project as
Jan Höglund
Aug 21, 2015 Jan Höglund rated it liked it
The Human Experiment: Two Years and Twenty Minutes Inside Biosphere 2 by Jane Poynter is a story about how she struggled to survive in Biosphere 2 together with seven other people. It’s a story of never-ending hunger, extremely low oxygen levels, and conflicts between the crew members. It’s a story where “the work ethic and discipline were extremely strong”, but also where the there was a “tight structure and leadership that was at times authoritarian” (page 18). The leader, John Allen, kept all ...more
Petr Kalis
Jan 23, 2015 Petr Kalis rated it really liked it
I was a fan of Biosphere 2 (imagine big glass greenhouse, that is hermetically closed from the outside, 8 people trapped there, nothing can in or out) since I heard about it long time ago. After I was able to visit the real thing, I was hooked even more, so this book was a clear choice.
Written by one of the eight, nickname Harlequin, the book is description how this great vision came to life, how it worked and how it almost failed, crash and burned.
Author has a knack for little bit too much the
Jay Storey
Mar 06, 2014 Jay Storey rated it really liked it
'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
Jul 25, 2010 Erin rated it it was ok
Interesting experience - but the book delves into the politics of the situation too much and not enough in the experiences in the Biosphere.
Mar 22, 2008 Miriam rated it liked it
Interesting recap of the Biosphere II experiment. Unfortunately, the book is badly edited.
Mar 18, 2012 Rachielle rated it liked it
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
Jan 26, 2008 Lila rated it liked it
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
Apr 05, 2015 Matt rated it really liked it
A fascinating book about Biosphere 2 written by a person who was closed inside it for 2 years. This should be mandatory reading for the people who are signed up for Mars One. Surviving in a self-contained 3-acre sealed greenhouse with 8 other people for two years has a lot of parallels to long duration space travel. The author's description of the psychological effects she and the other crew-members experienced being in such an environment are eye-opening.
Theresa Foxx wishert
Apr 23, 2014 Theresa Foxx wishert rated it really liked it
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
Nov 29, 2010 Kim Godard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 23, 2010 Donna rated it really liked it
Shelves: science, read-in-2010
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 really liked it
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
Sep 16, 2015 Michal added it
This book focuses mostly on the human aspect of the Biosphere project. I'll update this review once I've sorted out my thoughts on this very honest exploration of relationships between people and between human-nature.
Oct 21, 2008 Susan rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
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
Jun 26, 2014 Betsie rated it it was amazing
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.
Martha Frasier
Good Read

Weak intro. Would have been difficult to follow if I had not toured the site. Good insights into a complex endeavor.
Jun 03, 2008 Susan rated it it was amazing
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
Jec Ballou
Jan 18, 2016 Jec Ballou rated it liked it
A thought-provoking, albeit not well-crafted, story about human interactions and alliances.
Dec 03, 2007 Selene rated it liked it
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
Mar 07, 2012 Philip Hollenback rated it liked it
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
May 11, 2008 Brook rated it really liked it
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 really liked it
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
Feb 08, 2015 Carrie rated it liked it
interesting since we had just visited there
Oct 04, 2011 Jeannette rated it really liked it
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
Jul 15, 2013 Chris Seals rated it liked it
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
Aug 13, 2015 Jennifer Glass added it
Shelves: science
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!
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