Let me venture a guess and assume that most of you havent seen the lowest grossing comedy of 1996. We’re not talking Independance Day, Mission Impossible, or The Rock. We’re talking about the Pauly Shore classic, Bio Dome!
Let me refresh your memory…
A couple stoner dudes accidentally wander into the most ambitous science experiment of the decade? Classic comedy material right there. Howeva… did you know that there was an actual, real-life, group of people that attempted a similar scientific endevour.
Let’s back up to the mid 60’s and start from the beginning. There was a place called Synergia ranch located in the outskirts of Sante Fe led by the enigmatic John P. Allen. The eco-focused counterculture residents were some spiked kool-aid away from being a full blown cult. John was an experienced engineer, ecologist, metallurgist, adventurer, and theatre producer. A man of many hats, John led his merry band of misfits across the world, building hotels, creating sustainable eco-villages, and even built an oceanfaring boat that toured the world.
Biosphere 2, however, was his most ambitous endevour. Based on his learnings from the classic Buckminster Fuller book “Spaceship Earth”, Allen’s goal was to create a self sustaining, sealed ecological system that could be the foundation for building settlements on the Moon and Mars. At an estimated cost of 200 million dollars, how were John and his hippie crew to pay for this “experiment”? Enter Ed Bass, the black sheep son of one of the wealthest oil families in America.
With their startup costs covered, and the residents of Synergia ranch assigned executive postions at Biosphere Ventures, construction was set to begin in 1987. Four years later, just south of Tucson Arizona, the construction on the futuristic glass and metal structure was finished. I mean look at this place, it’s straight out of a sci-fi novel
As we learned from Bio Dome, mainainting a completely balanced, self-sustaining ecosystem is much harder than it looks. What makes it exponentially more difficult is when your leadership team doesnt have a traditional science research background. Since there were so many variables at play over the two year experiement, it was tough for the project to come up with any actionable results.
Nearing the one year mid-point of the “experiment”, (or ecocentric entertainment stunt as many academics called it) the 8 ‘Biospherians’ were starting to feel the effects of being stuck in this closed bubble. Lack of food and oxygen became a large concern as well as the constant barrage of media outlets and tourists visiting the grounds. This led to some strain among the team and quite a bit of in-fighting. Would the team be able to get over these hurdles for the sake of science?
If I have piqued your interest, you better get over to Hulu to check out how the experiement wraps up and what has become of the facility in recent years. Or, you could rent Bio-Dome and enjoy a few cheap laughs along the way with Bud & Doyle as they “Viva Los Bio-Dome”!
Until next time…