Friday, November 23, 2012


It is one of those things that bothers me, that should not. Should not bother me. Because it is something over which I have absolutely no control.
I am, of course, talking about gravity.
It’s all those Star Trek and Star Wars movies. It’s the crew of the Nostromo and the crew of the Starship Enterprise. It’s the crew of the space station in Solaris, and it’s the crew of the Death Star in Star Wars. Why are they walking around as if they were on a cruise ship in the Pacific? Shouldn’t they be floating, slowly tumbling, hair shooting out form their heads, like the crew of the International Space Station? And really, isn’t floating a way lot more fun than walking around like everyone else saddled with a stupid job in the military or corporation? If I had a job that meant floating all day and night, sleeping weightless in a cocoon and waking up and unzipping myself from my cocoon and easing into the waking world without my feet touching the floor, I’d be utterly devoted. I’d be Employee of the Month every month.
Kubrick got it partly right with the shuttlecraft in 2001: A Space Odyssey, when Dr. Heywood Floyd, played by William Sylvester, carefully reads the instructions for the zero gravity toilet. But then we have Frank Poole (Gary Lockwood) running laps aboard the Discovery. Where did the gravity come from?
According to Wikipedia:
A rotating spacecraft will produce the feeling of gravity on its inside hull. The rotation drives any object inside the spacecraft toward the hull, thereby giving the appearance of a gravitational pull directed outward. Often referred to as a centrifugal force, the "pull" is actually a manifestation of the objects inside the spacecraft attempting to travel in a straight line due to inertia. The spacecraft's hull provides the centripetal force required for the objects to travel in a circle (if they continued in a straight line, they would leave the spacecraft's confines). Thus, the gravity felt by the objects is simply the reaction force of the object on the hull reacting to the centripetal force of the hull on the object, in accordance with Newton's Third Law.
I get dizzy reading this explanation, but I’ll buy it. All I need is a little suspended disbelief to go along with the action in a space drama anyway.


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