Reboot the Biosphere Project?

Discussion in 'Science Fiction' started by Steven L Jordan, Aug 29, 2012.

  1. Steven L Jordan

    Steven L Jordan I like SF. SF is cool.

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    A recent article in IO9.com advises that the Biosphere projects should be revived.

    I agree: We have no hope to establish sustainable bases in space or on other planets unless we understand how to create a sustainable biosphere... and so far, we do not. The Biosphere experiments here and in the Soviet Union have demonstrated that we don't have the environmental, agricultural or biodiversity specs down. Further, the hardships of living in a struggling or failing biosphere space creates dysfunctional co-workers. We need to figure out the psychological and sociological needs and parameters of the crew in such a system.

    Or maybe, the idea of creating an Earth-like biosphere in a place other than Earth is sheer lunacy, and we need to start thinking of systems that are totally unlike "transplanted Earth" but still sustainable.

    This is an area that could use some fresh investigations and approaches in SF lit (see the "What's missing in SF" thread); I may even write one myself. Any thoughts from the gallery?
     
  2. mylinar

    mylinar Registered User

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    Thats interesting. I'd fogotten about the Biosphere project. Perhaps it was too grandious to work right and we should start from the bottom up.

    I remember seeing a glass sphere that had water, 1 plant and some kind of minor animal in it (sorry this is vague). It was claimed that as long as the sphere got normal light it would continue in equilibrium. It was sold as a novelty. [can anyone help my fading memory here as to what these are called].

    Assuming I am remembering correctly perhaps we start with something like that, make it a bit bigger and add a new couple of things to it and see if it can be sustainable. Keep at this looking for where things break down. It is a lot easier debugging a small system than a large complex one and you learn things in a incremental fashion.
     
  3. Steven L Jordan

    Steven L Jordan I like SF. SF is cool.

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    Yup, we had one of those, and gave one to a relative as a gift (I forget what they were called too!). As I recall, even the critters in that biosphere eventually died, though it might have been from an outside source (such as too much heat from direct sunlight) that did them in. They are still sold, I see them in stores now and then.

    I agree that working small and scaling up as you go would be a good way to continue the experiment... possibly even multiple parallel experiments, each investigating a different biological system/aspect, to be combined later to see how they work together. And it could be that some isolation of bio-projects is essential to their success in an artificially-closed system.
     
  4. Modern Day Myth

    Modern Day Myth Registered User

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    I agree. I think the lax nature of the development of the technology is due to the fact the need is not that urgent yet where our backs are to the wall where it is do or die.

    Have you ever read The Biological Time Bomb?

    That book covers everything from biological warfare to sending robots in space to introduce new chemistry to planets to make them more suitable for human life.

    If such a biosphere was to be built for space, it would also need artificial gravity and shielding from radiation.
     
  5. Steven L Jordan

    Steven L Jordan I like SF. SF is cool.

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    I think the necessity of gravity for various biological systems (not just our own) needs much further investigation. At least rotation of structures in space should be eminently workable, but there may be some organisms and processes that should thrive in microgravity, and we'd be better off leaving them there.

    In the case of radiation, I think investigation is not necessary, we just need to develop physical or energy-based shielding methods that will work from large structures down to space suits (or else make all EVA activity the domain of robots... not a horrible idea, but clearly less romantic than heroic astronauts on EVAs).
     
  6. Modern Day Myth

    Modern Day Myth Registered User

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    I am working with biospheres in my series. I watched Aeon Fluxx the live action movie and The Starlost as references and I read The Biological Time Bomb years ago.

    Biospheres became mandatory after World War III on Earth that was a nuclear war that ended all human life. Three military cyborgs survived the human race. They left Earth to go to an Earth-like planet in another solar system where one of the cyborgs was built. From there, they send back spaceships to Earth with cyborgs who built biospheres and cloned humans to live inside the biospheres to give the human race a second chance with one major change; the cyborgs took over world security to prevent the humans from repeating the history that ended them the first time.

    So, biospheres is something I am researching myself.
     
  7. Modern Day Myth

    Modern Day Myth Registered User

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    Another movie to use the biosphere idea is Silent Running.
     
  8. Steven L Jordan

    Steven L Jordan I like SF. SF is cool.

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    One of my favorites.
     
  9. krisbslick

    krisbslick Executor

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    you know, this probably would have been a great project for NASA to pursue planetside right now, since we seem to be earth-bound for a while (not taking into account 3rd party/national hitchhiking, of course)...
     
  10. Modern Day Myth

    Modern Day Myth Registered User

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    I was reading an article NASA published on Google Plus that SpaceX signed a $440 Million contract with them to make the spaceship that will replace the Shuttle. The articles did not specify if SpaceX picked up the Orion project.
     
  11. Steven L Jordan

    Steven L Jordan I like SF. SF is cool.

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    Yes, NASA would be best qualified to run and evaluate such a project, or to determine whether there was a way to replace the Biosphere concept with another system (less natural, less elaborate, more practical). Part of me thinks a fully-functional biosphere is simply too much to hope for, but a more artificial closed system (much like the little globes mentioned earlier) could work... it just wouldn't be as pretty.
     
  12. Modern Day Myth

    Modern Day Myth Registered User

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    If you are interested in more advanced technologies for biospheres, there's force fields like done in The Outer Limits in the 1990s and my own ideas such as interdimensional biospheres created to exist within different wave frequencies than our physical world.
     
  13. Steven L Jordan

    Steven L Jordan I like SF. SF is cool.

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    Containers aren't really the problem with biospheres. The problem is successfully coordinating the biological processes and ecological balance of everything from independent animals (like men) to bacteria, and everything in-between. The more I think about it (and the lack of success we've had doing that on a planetary scale), the more I doubt our ability to maintain such a complex ecosystem.

    The Biosphere projects should be dedicated to figuring out a limited-scale ecology that still sustains all biological organisms in an efficient way. It may be necessary to genetically engineer plants and animals specifically designed to function in such a limited ecosystem only, for the express purpose of providing a livable environment, and not to be "released into the wild." Their end form may be nothing like the plants and animals that exist today.
     
  14. Modern Day Myth

    Modern Day Myth Registered User

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    The ideal system would be self .monitoring and self correcting.

    Earth does not have that in place and human intervention is helping to destroy it.


    Right now biosphere technology is like artificial consciousness, we just don't understand it yet. In time we will.
     
  15. Steven L Jordan

    Steven L Jordan I like SF. SF is cool.

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    True, but I doubt that's possible. Even on an entire planet, the biosphere goes through changes that force change, survival pressures that cause evolution of species, extinction of others, and altering habitats and feeding grounds... IOW, the planetary biosphere is not self-correcting, it simply evolves to suit the new circumstances.

    A Biosphere, despite its appearances, would be as artificial an environment as the inside of a space ship; just more invisibly elaborate, as complex natural elements would take place of simpler technological elements. You don't want a perfectly natural system, because it will evolve, as the Biosphere projects proved.

    You want a stable and static environment... the antithesis of "natural." And you want an environment that can be adjusted to handle changes in demand... say, the loss, gain or significant change of crewmembers, the introduction (or evolution) of an invasive species, or a crop failure. Expecting a Biosphere to self-correct a system that extreme (and if you think about it, it's not that extreme) is expecting unnatural behavior in a supposedly natural system.
     
  16. Modern Day Myth

    Modern Day Myth Registered User

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    I believe you are underestimating a true AI self-correcting system with quantum computers.
     
  17. Steven L Jordan

    Steven L Jordan I like SF. SF is cool.

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    And you might be underestimating the power of nature and of chaos; or, as the esteemed Dr. Malcolm once said: "Life finds a way."
     
  18. mylinar

    mylinar Registered User

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    I thought we were discussing the practical concept of creating biospheres for the purpose of understanding how they work, pushing towards practical demonstrations and eventually setting something up to push us out into the solar system. There are no AI systems, self correcting or not, and there are no quantum computers.
     
  19. Modern Day Myth

    Modern Day Myth Registered User

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    We are and a self monitoring and correcting biosphere with AI can handle all changes to the environment, since it learns and adopts to change. It would be more adoptive than Val on Star Trek, which was a computer that controlled the environment of the world primitives were living on when then Enterprise crew found them.
     
  20. Steven L Jordan

    Steven L Jordan I like SF. SF is cool.

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    But we don't have quantum computers yet. We want a system that is capable of being constructed and operating now, with current knowledge and technology... or, at least, to be able to set the groundwork for a system that will be workable in the near future. We can't depend on the next generation of computing that doesn't exist yet... we might as well wait for Val.