Creative Science Writing at Biosphere 2

A creative writing MFA candidate interprets science.

Process November 24, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Esme Schwall @ 9:13 am

I bought a package of white index cards, a package of yellow index cards, a package of pink index cards, and a package of blue index cards. Baby shower colors (minus baby shower green).

On the pink cards, I recorded notes, quotes and arresting details about Biosphere 2, past and present. These cards say things like: “planes, curves, spheres possible from multiple pyramidic geometry”; “lungs: ‘variable expansion chambers’”; “respiration/soil temp. relationship found to be a loop, not a line.” I’m interested in how and why the place was built, and what kind of research is happening (or has happened) there.

The blue cards contain scientific research and theory that have informed the work done at Biosphere 2. In particular, I researched Vladimir Vernadsky’s concept of the biosphere, the Gaia hypothesis, and studies involving feedback loops between biotic and abiotic elements of an ecosystem. These cards say things like: “multiplication = autonomous energy of life in the biosphere = transformation of chemical elements & creation of new matter from them = GEOCHEMICAL ENERGY OF LIFE IN THE BIOSPHERE”; “ecosystem engineering theory [...] avoids conflation of process and outcome”; “how is homeostasis of Earth possible given ‘faint young sun’?”

On the white cards I’ve written the things I need to look up. For example, what is stochastic variation? And what happened at the 1988 American Geophysical Union conference when J.W. Kirchner supposedly burned a text on the Gaia hypothesis? (I also needed a refresher on the chemistry of photosynthesis.)

And the yellow cards. These have to be the heart and core of the essay. These are my musings, my interpretations, my translations. Not my renderings of science, but the things the science leads me to see. I’ve been thinking a lot about the physiology of family. The feedback loops within a family. How principles of entropy and mass and biotic/abiotic interactions have to do with our own lives and personal environments. Family as ecosystem. My family.

The next challenge (once I’ve finished the six white cards left to research) is to start braiding the pink, blue and yellow cards. This is where the art will happen. This is the mysterious part.

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One Response to “Process”

  1. Glen G Says:

    I like it, Esme. Now I’ve got to go look up “biotic” and “abiotic.”


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