Inhabitable and Co.

Posted: September 4, 2016 in Articles
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How many people have heard about an old science project called Biosphere 2? Biosphere 2 was an experiment conducted in Arizona. Scientists built a 3.15 acre structure with various biomes as well as a human habitat and a farm area. It had plant life in addition to animal life. The object was to test the viability of closed ecosystems and to see if humans could survive in a structure like Biosphere 2. Two missions under the company that owned Biosphere 2, Space Biosphere Ventures, were embarked upon. Each time, there were eight humans living in Biosphere 2, but unfortunately, both missions failed.

The first mission failed for numerous reasons, one being that the proportions of microorganisms in the enclosure were not correct. The second mission was cut short due to management shifts and the dissolution of the company that owned Biosphere 2. Though these two missions failed, Columbia University of New York City took over the management of Biosphere 2 and performed a successful 8-year mission. I noticed that though there are many details about the two failed missions, I couldn’t find much on the successful mission. Biosphere 2 is now a science museum and remains the largest closed system in the world.

Anyway, I had to write an essay on Biosphere 2 for school, and I used the word “inhabitable.” Then I noticed that “inhabitable” means the same thing as “habitable” even though in many cases, the prefix “in-” means “not” (for instance, incapable, incoherent, incapacitated, inconvenient). If you want to say that something is not fit to live in, you have to use the word “uninhabitable.” Yet, there isn’t an “unhabitable.” I personally found inhabitable and co. rather interesting; those words also made writing that essay worth it!

I would be interested to know what the story behind these words is, though, if anyone knows.

  1. Libby says:

    Strange thing – language! I don’t think ‘inhabitable’ is used much to mean lived in. I might say a building was ‘inhabited’, meaning people are living there right now, but if I simply wanted to imply that it was suitable to be lived in I would just say it was ‘habitable’.

  2. As you say, ‘habitable’ and ‘inhabitable’ are synonymous. The difference is a matter of age. The first dates, in England, from 14th century, and the second from 17th.

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