Earth gravity in space? How hard could it be...
April 27, 2011 4:31 PM   Subscribe

It's the future and humans live in space stations. What are some ways (real or fictional) that artificial gravity can be created so there will be no weightlessness?

Relatively short explanation: I'm writing a story about life on a space station in the distant future and would like to find a somewhat simple way to explain how normal Earth-like gravity can exist on a metallic non-Earth-like space craft. Explanations can be based in science fact or complete science fiction but I'd like the result to be at least quasi-believable.

So, MeFites, what say you?
posted by thejrt to Writing & Language (17 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
The classic answer is a spinning ring, such as in Larry Niven's 'Ringworld' books.
posted by easily confused at 4:33 PM on April 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

Consistent thrust to produce 1 G is the classic method when moving (provided you don't have to get anywhere fast/have warp/jump/some handwavey tech).
posted by yeloson at 4:38 PM on April 27, 2011

Wikipedia article on (real and fictional) methods of creating artificial gravity. See also here
posted by Paragon at 4:40 PM on April 27, 2011

Once could take a small chip out of a cold red dwarf star and place it under the floor. Perhaps micro black holes suspended in a inverse warp drive?
posted by sammyo at 4:48 PM on April 27, 2011

Mass, centrifugal force, acceleration, or Space Magictm.
posted by ook at 5:21 PM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

A lot of the spaceship fiction I read has something along the lines of "inertial dampeners," aka a Giant Handwave Device. These are typically used 1) to protect the crew and passengers from the crushing force of gravity during acceleration and deceleration and 2) to provide normal gravity during cruising times. It's complete fiction, such a thing is absolutely impossible as we currently understand the situation, but it's a pretty common trope and doesn't fuck with the physics of your universe TOO badly. It also means that you can have a pretty good crisis if the dampeners fail due to meteor strike or whatever.
posted by KathrynT at 5:25 PM on April 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

See them implemented casually in Tiptree's 1976 Houston, Houston, Do You Read?
posted by MidSouthern Mouth at 5:31 PM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

(I don't know if this is relevant, but I once read that a scientist considering the Star Trek hand-wavy method thought the worst part about it was that if you've got some way of creating artificial gravity, there is no way you'd also need things like "pulse drive" for sub-FTL travel. The implication, being, I guess, that once you can master gravity everything else is a piece of cake. True?)
posted by maxwelton at 5:43 PM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

The simplest, classic way is to have some or all of the station spin

For a moving ship instead of a space station, you'd definitely want two counter-rotating sections to cancel out each other's rotational momentum. You might even want this for a space station to help prevent the space station from precessing around on its axis.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:00 PM on April 27, 2011

maxwelton - I reckon the thinking is more specifically that control over gravity implies pretty directly that you also have control over inertia, and *that's* your sub-FTL drive right there.
posted by russm at 6:10 PM on April 27, 2011

There's an episode of Astronomy Cast which focuses on this topic (well, living in space in general but the spinning structure stuff is a big part). It includes O'Neill cylinders and Stanford tori.
posted by wackybrit at 7:03 PM on April 27, 2011

How about having velcros at the bottom of their shoes or space-suit?
posted by jchaw at 8:46 PM on April 27, 2011

Heavy boots!
posted by hattifattener at 11:46 PM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

A diet high in iron, with magnetic floors.

(Okay, okay. I need sleep.)
posted by rokusan at 12:49 AM on April 28, 2011

For a moving ship instead of a space station, you'd definitely want two counter-rotating sections to cancel out each other's rotational momentum

Yeah, and to get rid of weird precessional torque effects you'd want the centres of mass of all rotating sections to be in the same spot; the counter-rotating sections should probably nest, and the bearings should be as far apart on the rotating axis as possible.
posted by flabdablet at 2:22 AM on April 28, 2011

Here's an interesting discussion of the physics, and a bit of the biology, of rotating space stations.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 3:38 AM on April 28, 2011

Unless your story is specifically about The Man Who Invents Artificial Gravity, or an Artificial Gravity Engineer on Space Station Mu Alpha 19, who cares?

This is one of those prime hand-wavey "some guy figured this out and so now we have this technology nobody thinks much about anymore". I mean, you don't need to talk about Marconi to write Radio Days, or the secret behind Greek Fire to write The Pelopponesian War.
posted by Sara C. at 11:56 AM on April 28, 2011

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