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Scientist Sealed in Cube Leaves Early

Courtenay, British Columbia, Canada —(Map)

At 12 a.m. on Wednesday, a scientist sealed himself in a large plastic cube with about 200 plants. He planned to stay in the cube for three days, but had to leave after 15 hours because the air became too dangerous to breathe.

Kurtis Baute thinks of himself as a playful scientist. The Canadian used to teach science, but he quit to spend his time making unusual science videos on YouTube. He wants to help get people excited about science.

Mr. Baute in a sleeping bag inside his cube at night.
Mr. Baute entered the cube at night. He wanted to sleep without worrying too much about the carbon dioxide level in the cube.
(Source: Kurtis Baute (@kurtisbaute), via Twitter.)

The goal of Mr. Baute’s cube activity was to remind people about the dangers of climate change,  and how much we depend on plants to provide us with clean air.

Air is a mix of many gases. When humans and other animals breathe, our bodies use oxygen from the air. The air we breathe out is much higher in carbon dioxide, which is poisonous to humans. Carbon dioxide is also one of the gases that is causing global warming.

But for plants, carbon dioxide is food. Plants are able to remove carbon dioxide from the air and use it to help them grow. The gas that plants give off is oxygen – just what humans need to breathe.

Mr. Baute after about 11 hours in the cube.
The goal of Mr. Baute’s cube activity was to remind people about the dangers of climate change, and how much we depend on plants to provide us with clean air. This picture shows Mr. Baute after about 11 hours in the cube.
(Source: Kurtis Baute (@kurtisbaute), via Twitter.)

Mr. Baute hoped that even though he was polluting his 10-foot (3-meter) cube as he breathed out carbon dioxide, the 200 plants that he had in the cube with him would remove much of the carbon dioxide and replace it with oxygen. To keep himself safe, Mr. Baute had sensors in the cube to keep track of the level of carbon dioxide. He also had a friend watching from outside who could help him medically if he needed it.

Mr. Baute had sensors inside the cube to check on the level of carbon dioxide in the air. He thinks the plants could not clean the air well because it was cloudy.

Mr. Baute said that after about 14 hours, it became hard to think clearly. Around 15 hours after Mr. Baute first entered the cube, his sensors showed that the levels of carbon dioxide in the cube were dangerously high. He decided to stop his activity.

Mr. Baute thinks the plants did not remove as much carbon dioxide as he had hoped because it was a cloudy day. Some other people say the activity was not likely to work anyway. They say that Mr. Baute did not have enough of the right kinds of plants.

By around three in the afternoon, after close to 15 hours in the sealed cube, Mr. Baute had to leave because the air was not safe to breathe.

Mr. Baute still feels like the activity was a success. He said his main goal was to make people think more about climate change and that has certainly happened. Mr. Baute is pleased with the attention, news reports, and comments that his activity has caused.

This is not the first time Mr. Baute has been in the news. In one of his earlier videos, he used 13,799 dominoes to help explain the history of the universe since the Big Bang. In another one, he biked between two sticks separated by 87 miles (140 kilometers). Working with friends, he measured the shadows of the sticks at the same time and used this information to prove that the earth was round.

Courtenay, British Columbia, Canada


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