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Artificial gravity (fiction)

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Title: Artificial gravity (fiction)  
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Subject: Artificial gravity, Space stations and habitats in fiction, Isaac Clarke
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Artificial gravity (fiction)

Artificial gravity is a common theme in fiction, particularly science fiction.

Rotational gravity

In the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, a rotating centrifuge in the Discovery spacecraft provides artificial gravity. The people would be walking inside the circle; their feet toward the exterior and their head toward the center, the floor and ceiling would curve upwards. A rotating circular set was used in at least one instance to make this effect with the actors always at the bottom; as they walked, the set would be turned to keep the actors at the bottom and prevent them from falling over as they walked up the curved floor. The movie also features a rotating space station.

Larry Niven's novel Ringworld featured a gigantic habitat encircling a star, which created artificial gravity through rotation. Niven also makes a reference to the Coriolis effect when the protagonists see what looks like a giant eye above the horizon. When they get closer, they realise that it is in fact a hurricane, but rotating about an axis parallel to the ground rather than perpendicular to it. Large hurricanes on Earth rotate the way they do due to the Coriolis effect. A number of early Known Space and Man-Kzin Wars stories also make use of rotational gravity, prior to the adoption of "gravity polarizer" technology which generates artificial gravity fields.

In the Gundam universe, gigantic space habitats similar to O'Neill cylinders, called Colonies, are an important aspect to the plot. They spin to generate artificial gravity.

In the anime Cowboy Bebop, the Bebop possesses a ringed area that generates artificial gravity and is often seen being used (with the rest of the ship not rotating).

The book Rendezvous with Rama and the sequels featured an alien construct similar to an O'Neill habitat which was able to generate approximately 0.6g on the intentionally habitable ground section. The plot employed significant use of the difference in strength of artificial gravity as an object approaches the center of the rotating cylinder.

In the television series Babylon 5, the Earth Alliance made extensive use of rotational gravity in its space stations and some larger military vessels, as well as civilian cruise ships. It has been suggested that the cruise ships would alter their rate of spin gradually en route to match the destination, helping to acclimate the passengers to the new gravity they would find upon arrival. Earlier Earth Force ships are shown using straps and harnesses to hold crew in place, and the Minbari later share the secret of artificial gravity as part of the Interstellar Alliance.

In the stories based on Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri, the Unity provided artificial gravity by spinning, though the game made allusions to less conventional technologies developed later on.

In John Varley's Gaian trilogy (Titan, Wizard, and Demon), the title world Gaia, being a torus with a diameter of 1300 kilometers, spins at a rate of one revolution per sixty-one minutes, producing an apparent gravity of one-quarter g.

In Iain M. Banks's Culture series, Orbitals are made ten million kilometres in circumference so that they spin with a rate that gives a natural day/night cycle while the center is in orbit around a star.[1]

In the game Halo: Combat Evolved, the main location of the story is an artificial ringworld that creates artificial gravity by computer-controlled rotational spin (inspired by the aforementioned Larry Niven's novel Ringworld but also uses some form of field or other artificially generated gravity as it is stated in Halo: The Flood, the ring world does not spin nearly fast enough to create the amount of gravity it possesses. "Halo" (or "Installation 04") is approximately 10,000 km in diameter and is eventually destroyed by the same forces keeping it in operation. A fusion explosion weakens part of the ringworld, and centrifugal forces tear the ring apart.

Field generators

In many science fiction stories, there are artificial gravity generators that create a gravitational field based on a mass that does not exist. It helps the story by creating a more Earth-like spaceship, and in the case of a movie or television program, it helps the production because it is a lot cheaper than the special effects needed to simulate weightlessness.

In the Star Trek universe, artificial gravity is achieved by the use of "gravity plating" embedded in a starship's deck.

  • In the Star Trek: Enterprise episode "In a Mirror, Darkly", the gravity plating of the USS Defiant is used to fend off a Gorn attack by greatly increasing the ship's gravity in one section. The Gorn attacker was forced down to the floor and immobilized, where The "Mirror" Jonathan Archer easily killed him.
  • Benjamin Sisko once built a replica of an ancient Bajoran solar-sailer spacecraft. As these craft were not normally equipped with artificial gravity, Sisko added gravity plating to make it easier for him and Jake to pilot the vessel. (DS9 episode "Explorers")
  • Star Trek novels more specifically explain the specifics of artificial gravity technology. It is often explained as making use of virtual gravitons

In Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda, set thousands of years in the future, gravity field generators not only provide gravity for the people inside the ship, but also reduce inertial mass of ships such as the Andromeda Ascendant to just under a kilogram. This greatly increases the efficiency of their Magneto-Plasma Dynamic Drive, allowing them to go from a stop to percentages of light speed very quickly. It can also be easily manipulated to do things like increase gravity and immobilize intruders (though prepared intruders can use an antigravity harness to prepare for this possibility), and reversed to expel things from the ship.

In the anime Dragon Ball Z, gravity simulation plays a key part in various character's training regime. It is also used to demonstrate the character's increasing strength. For example, when Goku first arrives on King Kai's planet, he is nearly crushed by the gravity, which is ten times that of Earth's. By the end of his visit, nearly a year later, he is able to move at great speed under such conditions. This method of training gradually appears more and more in the universe, and the gravity gets stronger as well. Ten times Earth's gravity goes from a seemingly indomitable level of opposition to nothing, and several hundred times Earth's gravity becomes the standard. Vegeta even had a Gravity Room built into his house.

In the Doctor Who story The Sontaran Experiment, a Sontaran used similar technology to make a bar above a human very heavy, so that his friends had to lift it up with as much force as they could to prevent him being crushed. The Sontaran gradually increased the bar's weight as part of an experiment to study not only their physical strength but also their loyalty, as their friend had recently attempted to betray them.

In the BioWare series Mass Effect, the eponymous "mass effect" is responsible for the manipulation of gravity or kinetic forces(if the mass effect field is alternating), caused by subjecting a quantity of fictional "element zero" to an electrical current. A negative current reduces the mass of anything within the field, a positive current increases mass, and an alternating current will create a barrier force of immense power that can shield or crush anything the force is directed at. Mass effect is used in faster than light travel, artificial gravity on spacecraft, weapon technology, kinetic barriers and shields, and much more. Individuals exposed to element zero are known as "biotics," the nodules of element zero embedded into their nervous systems allow them to use neural impulses to create mass effect fields themselves if the power of the element is amplified with a biotic amp, granting specific types of abilities such as certain types of telekinesis. An individual exposed to this "eezo" would often rather cause cancer.

In the video game Dead Space, artificial gravity plates are used to simulate an Earth-like environment in outer space. In several levels, gravity plating is off and the player has to navigate in weightlessness using 'Zero-Gravity Boots', similar to magnetic boots. Defective gravity plates are also encountered sometimes, which push objects upward rather than downward with great force, killing the player or enemies instantly if they step on them.

Dense matter

In Killing Field by Charles Sheffield, he envisaged ships with a disk containing a flat arrangement of black holes at the nose, with a moveable crew capsule. When the ship was stationary, the crew compartment was positioned to give a comfortable 1g downwards towards the nose, but as the ship accelerated at up to 50g, the crew compartment was moved closer to the nose to cancel the acceleration effects and keep the crew comfortable.

See also


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