With a mischievous grin and gleaming dark eyes, Dr. Dragos Zaharescu raises a small spatula to his lips and tastes. At his feet are four containers, each filled with a different type of ground rock—granite, basalt, rhyolite or schist. Zaharescu will blend this rock with bacteria or fungus, creating a sandy medium for seedlings he grows here under the glass dome of Biosphere 2.
The dark-haired scientist cleanses his palate with water and tastes another sample. He won’t tell us his opinion yet, but dares us to participate as he serves sand like a sommelier.
“Which one do you want first?” he says.
After we sample the ground rock, Zaharescu agrees that granite tastes like salt.
Biosphere 2, where he does his research, is about 35 miles north of Tucson, Ariz. The dome of Biosphere 2 rises from the mesquite savannah like a cathedral for the celebration of science. Assorted biospherians and scientists have studied within this glass vivarium. The enthusiasm for discovery has not waned since the original crew of biospherians lived here two decades ago. Their mission: To survive for two years sustained only by the food they grew beneath the dome.