Saturday, June 5, 2010

An important 365-day model "polar city" experiment gets underway to test human endurance and survival instincts as global warming threatens humankind in year 2500 ....or sooner

By Vladimir Estragon, Associated Content

OSLO – An international team of researchers climbed into a set of sleek steel polar city capsules Thursday to launch a 365-day simulation model polar city for survivors of global warming chaos in the future. The test is intended to help humans learn to cope with confinement, stress and fatigue during prolonged periods of residence inside polar cities scattered across the northern regions of the world in the year 2500 AD.

The 18 crew of three Americans, three Canadians, three Norwegians, a Frenchwoman, an Italian, a German, three Taiwanese college students and three Kenyans, will follow a tight regimen of experiments and exercise under video surveillance.

The Model Polar City-365 experiment — conducted by the Norwegian-based Institute for Future Climate Problems in cooperation with the Plar Cities Research Institute run by Danny Bloom — aims to reproduce the conditions of life in a polar city in the distant future.

"For me, it will be mainly my family, and the sun and fresh air," French participant Celia Bertin said when asked by reporters what she will miss most during the year of confinement.

The researchers will communicate with the outside world via the Internet — delayed and occasionally disrupted to imitate the effects what life will be like then. They will eat canned food and shower only once a week or so. Crew members will have two days off a week, except when emergencies are simulated, though they will still be in the capsules.

"Certainly, the crew is largely on its own here, with very limited communications with the outside world," Bloom told Associated Content. "They have to cope internally with a lot of conditions and to organize themselves."

A real polar city life is centuries away because of huge costs and massive technological challenges. President Barack Obama said last month that he foresaw sending Americans to Alaskan polar cities by year 24oo.

The crew members said they were confident of success. Roma Trastevere, the Italian member, told a news conference that for him it would mean "accomplishing dreams about the future, doing something that no human has done before. Polar cities might very well be our future."

Psychologists said long confinement would put the team under stress as they grow increasingly tired of each other's company. Psychological conditions can be even more challenging in a mock polar city than a real one because the crew won't experience any of the euphoria or dangers of actual polar city life.

One crew member said he was bringing along a guitar to warm the atmosphere. Others said they would bring books, movies and pictures of their relatives.

The crew will split their days into eight hours of work, eight hours of sleep and eight hours of leisure.

"The routine is much more than on a real mission, there is a little bit less sense of what it might be like in the future," Bloom said. "But I think their team spirit, and their motivation to go there and to accomplish the whole mission is enormous."

As part of efforts to keep the crew in good spirits, they will play an "global" match with former world chess champion Anatoly Karpov at some point during the experiment.

The facility for the experiment is in Svaalbord, Norway and includes poalr city living compartments the size of a bus connected with several other modules for experiments and exercise. A separate built-in imitator of the landscape in Norway 500 years from now then the Earth is 9 degrees warmer then today is also attached to the capsules.

The mission director said the experiment could be disrupted for medical or technical reasons or if some of the participants categorically demand it be stopped.

"Each crew member has the right to end the experiment and walk out," he said at a news conference. "We have had such negative experience in the past, and I hope it won't happen during this experiment."

The organizers said each crew member will be paid about US$100,000 for taking part in the experiment.

For the mission captain, the experiment means separation from his wife just a few weeks after the two tied the knot. "It's difficult for me to part with my family, just as it is for any other person," he told journalists just before stepping in.


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