Best Scientific Boondoggle - 2012
It was pitched to the world as one of the grandest scientific ventures of all time, but ultimately wound up being nothing more than a titanic joke mired in scandal. In 1991, the much-ballyhooed biological experiment known as Biosphere 2 was launched outside Tucson, sealing eight people inside a $200 million self-contained, glass-enclosed airtight habitat that essentially was a 7.2-million-cubic-foot terrarium stocked with flora and fauna. It was hoped they could grow their own food, maintain the environment, and live in harmony. Too bad it was a disappointment on nearly every level. Animals started dying off, the air became unbreathable because of an overabundance of carbon dioxide, infighting developed, and everyone became malnourished. By the time they were released two years later, the organization that built and ran the place was revealed as a New Age cult and its so-called scientific findings were deemed bunkum. In the two decades since, Biosphere 2 was bought by Columbia University and later sold to the U of A (its current owner), both of which gave it a modicum of respectability as a biological and climate-research facility. Basically, it's an ant farm on steroids that's become an interesting footnote in Arizona history.