Editor's Note: Publicity about the Biosphere II project--that plan to seal eight human beings in a greenhouse near Tucson for two years starting in December--is starting to crank up.
Well, since the summer of 1989, New Times Science Editor Cap'n Dave has been conducting his own experiment in "environmentally self-sufficient living."
Last week, he emerged from the Beerosphere--a double-wide trailer parked in Glendale--for the first time in more than a year.
So he says.
In truth, Cap'n Dave has been spotted hundreds of times outside the Beerosphere.
When he began the project a year ago, Cap'n Dave said the objectives of the experiment were: To "live, love and laugh" for an extended period of time within a "carefully controlled environmental laboratory."
"Blow a lot of grant money, as usual."
Eventually generate "a massive amount of pub[licity]."
Cap'n Dave was unable to comment on the success or failure of the project at the time of its completion, preferring instead to leave immediately for "several weeks of quiet rest and relaxation" in an undisclosed location, believed to be Las Vegas, Nevada.
We did, however, find his diary.
MDRVAugust 30, 1989
I enter the Beerosphere tomorrow morning at ten o'clock. My plans are to stay inside for the next year, emerging only for special newspaper assignments, Mojo Nixon concerts and, of course, lunch every day. I've told everybody that I'll be totally sealed inside the Beerosphere for the whole time. Big experiment. Yeah, right. What do I look like, some kind of dope?
Anyway, great care has been taken to prepare my "earth capsule." I've signed up for about twenty different magazines and two premium channels on cable. My "nourishment-supply storage facility" is stocked with all kinds of excellent stuff. And I've got four big jars of Tang.
What I intend to prove during the next year is that man is capable of living--and living well--inside an almost totally enclosed environment. The fact that I don't actually intend to totally lock myself inside this thing may be the only aspect of this project which proves I haven't gone totally nuts.
Meanwhile, I've been advanced several grand in grant money, and I intend to blow it all. As far as supplemental income goes, I'm planning on making a killing with souvenir sales and TV-movie rights. Plus, New Times is kicking in $15 a week for lunch meat.
Naturally, I'll be recycling lots of things, including clothing and videos of the Letterman show. I'll also be conducting several fascinating experiments, some of them top-secret government things. I believe it'll be really neat.
The benefits to society of this kind of research are many. After a full year, for example, I should be able to say for certain which one of the network newscasters is the biggest idiot. Also, I'll know a lot about fungus. MDRVOctober 10, 1989
My first extended project upon beginning my stay in Beerosphere was to get going on a visitors' center and gift shop. I've been keeping very busy on this task during the past couple of months. So far I've got several rough sketches of a visitors' center, including a place for a very cool slide show about the Beerosphere's "mission." Then there's the gift-deployment area and the snack bar, where I'll sell official collectible Beerosphere coffee mugs and other stuff.
I've been doing a lot of creative thinking as to what kind of great junk I'll be selling to visitors. People who visit me here will want to take home lots of down-sized replicas of many of my special Beerosphere tools, and eventually there will be a full line of official Beerosphere knickknacks, such as miniature replicas of my VCR remote control made into key chains and corkscrews. There also will be many racks of nifty Beerosphere garb available for purchase. I'm expecting a Nike endorsement deal any day.
As for the science-related aspects of the Beerosphere project, everything is running along smoothly. Well, almost everything. There is this one glitch: My TV Guide subscription hasn't kicked in yet, so I accidentally missed the first several weekly blocks of cable shows starring the different college football coaches. ASPN runs 'em sometimes five in a row, a whole cavalcade of boneheaded tyrants talking pigskin from coast to coast. I like the chalk talk and the filmed highlights, too, but I especially love to watch the way the announcers on those shows lick Coach Bubba's butt. Every time I start to feel like I'm not doing enough hard-hitting journalism in my career, I tune into one of those shows to watch some jock-sniffing. I feel much better.
MDRVNovember 3, 1989
After several months in semi-isolation, my mood is pretty good. I've had to make a couple of extended trips outside of my carefully controlled environment, and I think that's helped me avoid Beerosphere Fever. On this point, some members of the scientific community will no doubt ~criticize my methodology. Let them carp, I say.
Currently, many citizens desire to live in mobile, almost totally self-contained living units--some prefer to call them "trailers," others prefer the term "mobile homes." Little, if any, serious study has been done on the mental outlook of trailerites. From appearances, you'd think they'd be pretty grumpy, what with the limited closet space and all.
Well, my experiment is designed to produce a concentrated study, for the first time, on the effects of long-term habitation of trailers. By next fall I'll have a whole notebook full of conclusions, and probably my own column in USA Today, which will be no worse than Larry King's.
So what if I'm not totally confined to my quarters? If the psych-lab nerds of the world want to spend two whole years inside a double-wide without coming out once, I say, "Lots of luck." Meanwhile, I've been heading out to Mr. Lucky's almost every night. If every social scientist could spend more time relaxing while listening to a hot country band, I'd guess we'd have a lot fewer stressed-out social scientists out there making decisions about proper parking-space width. MDRVDecember 20, 1989
It's time to report on a couple of my experiments: The Sea-Monkeys are all as big as jumbo shrimp, and the ant farm looks like the Durango Curve at rush hour. The fungus experiment in my shower isn't coming along quite so well. I made the mistake of having a maid come in last week to give the place a preholidays once-over, and I think she swabbed some fungus killer around in there. Too bad. All scientists have setbacks, but this one's a real bummer. Fortunately, my experiment with the Jumbo Jack wrappers is proving a smashing success. My original theory was that the metallic-looking wrappers, if applied carefully to my sleeping compartment's east-facing window, could act as a solar-reflecting barrier. Now my mornings and afternoons are uninterrupted by nagging sunlight, allowing me more rest and, consequently, a more positive outlook once I do rise.
In addition to these projects, my observations of the Beerosphere's climate-control apparatus continues full apace. I've found that, for the most part, it gets warmer in the Beerosphere during the day and cooler at night. The bathroom often is more humid, particularly after I've had a shower, and the kitchen gets warmer after I've used the stove. I've made climate-control adjustments using the thermostat, and by opening and closing windows.
MDRVFebruary 12, 1990
In the centuries to come, people will have many questions about my year in the Beerosphere. For one thing, they'll wonder what I did for exercise while confined in a semi-enclosed space.
Needless to say, fitness--mental, physical and emotional--is a key component of any environaut's make-up.
As you might expect, my program is pretty sophisticated. It's a three-step routine, designed to give me a well-rounded workout.
Part One is stretching. Most physical fitness experts will tell you that stretching is the cornerstone of any good workout program. I couldn't agree more. The stretching program I've designed includes several different exercises, including the Standing Shrug, the Seated Shoulder Flex, and the Toe Extension From a Prone Position. The last one's my favorite.
The Standing Shrug is designed to stretch and strengthen muscles used in everyday life, using a revolutionary "imaging" process.
First, imagine your boss asking a question you should be able to answer but can't, probably because you've been goofing off. Now, extend both arms out from your sides until they are parallel to the floor. As your arms reach shoulder height, slowly turn your palms toward the sky, shrug your shoulders and imagine saying, "Beats me, boss." Now, imagine your boss telling you the correct answer. After a short pause, slap your right palm against your forehead and picture yourself saying, "Geez, you don't say." I usually do ten reps.
The Seated Shoulder Flex is simple to perform, but very useful in relieving stress and tension. Start by sitting down in a comfortable chair. Next, place your hands behind your head while exhaling slowly. Leave your hands there for a good three or four minutes, then lower them back to the arms of the chair. Now relax.
As I say, the Toe Extension From a Prone Position is my favorite. Begin the exercise by finding a comfortable horizontal surface. The floor is fine, if you can find a large-enough open space, but I prefer to do this one on a couch or in bed. Position your TV monitor so that your toes and feet block your view of the screen. Now close one eye, and stretch your right big toe away from the rest of your right foot until the TV screen is clearly visible in the space between the big toe and the next-to-the-biggest toe. Hold it, hold it--feel the burn. Now relax. Repeat with each of the toes on both feet, then switch eyes.
Part Two of my plan is walking. Every day I walk to the curb to get the paper. Every two weeks or so, I do distance work by walking to my trailer park's laundry room.
Part Three is a hand-eye coordination exercise. I strongly feel that any exercise program is doomed to failure if it's not enjoyable to the participant. I also strongly feel that some kind of technological gizmo has to be employed if the program is to succeed over time. My hand-eye coordination exercise--putting golf balls across the Beerosphere's living room into an electric ball-return machine--incorporates both of these philosophies.
MDRVMay 25, 1990
Well, I went away for a couple of weeks, and most of my experiments flopped. The Sea-Monkeys now sleep with the fishes, and my ants have bought the farm. The shower-stall fungus experiment proceeds successfully, however, because the cleaning lady won't go near my bathroom. I'm hoping to make a big deal about the fungus when I meet with the NASA people in the fall. Not surprisingly, the space program honchos have taken a pretty keen interest in my work from the very beginning. When we begin to more fully colonize space, not all of the astronauts are going to be studly, fighter-jock types with advanced degrees in physics. Extended space trips and long periods of isolation with big bunches of similarly steely-nerved eggheads is easy for your typical astronaut type. For these guys a journey to Pluto will be a lot like college: Study, sleep, do pushups. Study, sleep, do pushups. I'm pretty sure that every floating space city and distant planet base will need slugs like me to provide ironic commentary. And that's where the Beerosphere fits in. If they can't send chronic complainers, lazy bums or sarcasm experts into space because of lack of research, then the gene pool of Earth's emigrants will get kind of close-knit, you know what I'm saying? Without projects like the Beerosphere, there may never be bowling alleys or doughnut shops on Pluto. MDRVAugust 5, 1990
It's Dan Rather, of course. The big question is, how soon before his head explodes from the pressure? MDRVAugust 30, 1990
Well, my year is up tomorrow. Conclusions? It is possible for a human male to exist for a full year inside a semi-enclosed, semi-self-sufficient environmental space, as long as he's got delivery access to good Chinese food. Trailer life isn't all that bad, especially if you've got covered parking and cable.
None of my biology experiments turned out. In May I went to Mexico for a couple of weeks and left the air conditioner off, killing my Sea-Monkeys and ants. The shower-stall fungus colony gradually evolved into a slightly higher life form and decided to run for the state Senate.
The Beerosphere itself isn't in such great shape. A year of experimental living has taken its toll, and I doubt that any tourists are going to want to see this mess. There are huge mounds of beer cans (recyclable) stored around the perimeter of the facility, big piles of pizza boxes and a totally gaudy burial shrine for the brave Sea-Monkeys that gave their lives for science. I'll probably lose most of my deposit money because of that. Progress marches on. And so do I. The Beerosphere Foundation has decided to relocate in a strip mall in Vegas, not far from the Liberace Museum. We'll re-create the original Beerosphere project there, and maybe put in a water slide or two. A traveling Beerosphere exhibit, complete with multimedia light show and fog machine, will be stationed weekends at the Phoenix Park 'n' Swap at 3801 East Washington.
USA Today hasn't called yet, but I've got a couple of TV movie deals in the works, as well as a diary serialization contract with New Times. In other words, I'm pretty much set for life. I did it for science. See you on Pluto.
The fact that I don't actually intend to totally lock myself inside this thing may be what proves I haven't gone totally nuts.
After a full year, I should be able to say for certain which one of the network newscasters is the biggest idiot.
I've found that, for the most part, it gets warmer in the Beerosphere during the day and cooler at night.
I'm pretty sure that every floating space city and distant planet base will need slugs like me to provide ironic commentary.