Sunday, February 22, 2015

Book Club: The Human Experiment

My reading choices are occasionally pretty eclectic, and The Human Experiment: Two Years and Twenty Minutes Inside Biosphere 2 is definitely an example of that.
My grandma actually gave me this book for my birthday, and after skimming the jacket I was super excited to read it. Then, in January, my office book club chose "true adventure" as our theme for the month, providing the perfect opportunity for me to set aside the baby sleep books and read something for entertainment value instead.
Do you remember the 1995 Pauly Shore movie Bio-Dome? Likely not (it was pretty ridiculous) but I was a nerdy Pauly Shore fan at the time, so of course I saw it. That movie was based loosely on the same true-life experience detailed in The Human Experiment.
In 1991 four men and four women sealed themselves into a three-acre greenhouse in Arizona and emerged 730 days later... much wiser, thinner, and having done what many said was impossible. 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. Cut off from the outside world with only seven other people for company, the biospherians endured never-ending hunger, severely low levels of oxygen, and extremely difficult relationships. The crew members struggled to survive while keeping their promise that nothing would go in or out – no food, no water, not even air – all in the name of science.
In this first-hand account author and biospherian Jane Poynter shares what really happened inside the controversial project with a riveting, fast-paced trip through shattered lives, scientific discovery, cults, love, fears of insanity, and inspiring human endurance.
I thought this book was really interesting, but I often found myself skimming through the more detailed scientific stuff so that I could get to the dramatic/personal aspects of the story. Poynter does explain in fascinating detail how the biosphere got built, and what the eight people isolated inside for two years experienced. It definitely gave me a claustrophobic feeling as I was reading! I'd love to visit the actual site in Arizona someday. 
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