From the Prologue:

A wood plank path leads over ferns and mud puddles into the rainforest, where shocks of bright green banana leaves press against glass walls, battling toward the sun. Ants scurry in columns over branches and vines. The atmosphere hangs hot and moist; clothing dampens, hair wilts. And in some spots barely perceptible, in others roaring, drones the noise: a relentless machine hum. An immense round fan rotates and whirs. Drooping fronds lilt upward as the fan ticks around, shifting air in the same pattern, hour after hour, with lockstep regularity. Aside from this blowing, however, the air is still—too still. In the absence of gusting winds that would force them to grow strong, young tree trunks sag, curving back down toward the ground. High above, yanking the trunks back up, ropes and pulleys crisscross the ceiling. Thin white steel beams etch a geometry of triangles against the blue sky beyond. . . .

Underneath this tropical paradise, the machinery of the Biosphere churns. Dim cement basement passageways weave beneath the wilderness, a sinuous network of white plastic and metal tubes streaming water and electricity to make the Biosphere go, each trafficking its input to just the right spot to emerge as rain or wind. Sounds and temperatures change at every turn in the maze. In one subterranean corridor, wave pumps roar; in the next room water methodically swishes and pours through cleansing trays filled with brown algae. Hulking cylindrical tanks hold various stages of the water cycle: “condensate storage,” “wilderness rain.” From within the subterranean maze, a long white tunnel, whipped by a cold rush of wind, leads to the inside of the Biosphere’s “lung”—a huge domed room under a metal ceiling that subtly rises as air heats up and expands, so that the wilderness’s glass walls will not pop; with each inflation and deflation, the Biosphere mechanically breathes. . . .

Today the wool-carpeted halls of Biosphere 2’s Human Habitat area are eerily quiet. A few researchers in relaxed work clothes walk between offices under the cavernous ceilings; laughing college students, visiting for the semester, bounce through on their way to the computer lab; behind glass doors, a handful of technicians checks computer monitors in the command room. Down the hall, the huge state-of-the-art kitchen gleams white, metallic, and empty. A few jars of dried beans remain on the counter, but just as a display for the tourists. Eight empty chairs still sit around the cold granite-slab dining table. And finally, high above, up a spiral staircase, shines the Biosphere’s crowning white lookout tower, its windows commanding views of the desert arroyos, sunsets, and mountain ranges back on Earth. There, aloft in a carpeted library off limits to tourists, far above the sweaty din of the ecosystems below, an odd assortment of books still lines the shelves: collections of plays by great modern playwrights, ecology textbooks, legends of ancient civilizations, the Vedas, the Upanishads, literature on space colonies, how-to manuals such as How to Grow More Vegetables Than You Ever Thought Possible on Less Land Than You Can Imagine. Together, silently, the pile of books records a saga—a story of grand aspirations to understand and encapsulate the world. And tucked here and there amid all the books, other relics remain: a few slim volumes of play scripts from an acting company called the Theater of All Possibilities.