Celebrity scientist to be sealed in airtight box for experiment
For two days, British geologist Iain Stewart will be sealed in an air-tight, bedroom-sized container with only small plants to provide him with oxygen.
Story by Living on Earth. Listen to audio above for full interview.
"I think everyone knows generally that the oxygen that we breathe that’s in our atmosphere comes from photosynthesis and generally from plants," UK Professor Iain Stewart told PRI's Living on Earth, "but, you know, actually how much people appreciate that just how much of that oxygen, and how much they rely on plants -- that's the kind of thing that they take for granted every day."
To make that relationship more clear, Stewart is sealing himself in an airtight container with some 150 small plants and about 30 large plants for two days. "What’s lovely about this experiment is there's a symbiotic relationship in here," he says. "I'm in a box, a really small glass box, and basically I have to walk and exercise in order to give out carbon dioxide, to the plants that are around me in order for them to photosynthesize and give me back oxygen."
"If I don’t do my job and I don't produce enough CO2, the plants can’t do their job and supply me with oxygen," he says. "So, it just shows that really sensitive, intimate relationship we have with vegetation that I think most ordinary people just aren’t aware of."
There is a scientific element to the experiment, too. Stewart says, " There’s a huge theory here about how much these plants - how much oxygen they should produce. But, the telling thing will be once we’re in there, and we've got the temperature conditions, and my CO2 conditions, will be how much they actually produce."
Stewart won't be sitting around for the whole time. "I’ve got an exercise bike in there, but that’s largely to do experiment runs and know how my body’s reacting," he says, but, also, crucially, to make sure that I’m pumping out carbon dioxide for those plants. So I can’t just sit passively, and you know, just kind of chill."
For food, Stewart will rely mostly on salad, "because we can’t heat anything -- we can’t cook anything," he explains. So, I’m going to be surrounded by plants, and I’m going to be eating them, which is a bit of an oddity."
Overall, Stewart is enthusiastic. He told Living on Earth, "I’m going to enjoy it, I think!"
Read the full transcript on the Living on Earth website.
Hosted by Steve Curwood, "Living on Earth" is an award-winning environmental news program that delves into the leading issues affecting the world we inhabit.