April 06, 2004
Ringing in the Years

Slashdot just linked up the news that, among SF's upcoming new shows will be an adaptation of Larry Niven's Ringworld:

Based on Larry Niven's RINGWORLD series of novels, a four-hour mini-series is in development. In the future four explorers crash on an artificial structure in deep space, a mammoth ring that circles a distant star. Exploring this strange place, the humans discover that there is life here and secrets that could change the universe forever.

I enjoyed the first Ringworld book immensely, and liked the second and third. Here's to hoping that a) it becomes a reality and b) it doesn't suck. SciFi's track record on such adaptations is actually pretty good IMO. Ellen and I have both liked pretty much everything they've come out with so far, so I think the odds of it sucking badly are pretty low at this point.

More as we find it out!

Oh, for those of you who don't know WTF the Ringworld is, from the Wikipedia entry:

The "Ringworld" is an artificial ring about a million miles wide and approximately the diameter of Earth's orbit (which makes it about 600 million miles in circumference), centered about a star, and rotating to provide an Earthlike artificial gravity, with a habitable flat inner surface equivalent in area to millions of Earth-sized planets. Walls 1000 miles tall along the edges keep in the atmosphere. The Ringworld could be regarded as a thin slice of a Dyson sphere, with which it shares a number of characteristics.

As I recall, the book describes the way it looks from a distance as a blue ribbon forming a wide loop around a candle flame. Players of Halo will know automatically what this looks like, although I believe the original Ringworld is much larger than Halo.

Posted by scott at April 06, 2004 02:26 PM

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If they could pull off half of what I'm hoping they try, this could be a fun show. And though I've only seen a little of their Dune miniseries, I agree that their track record has been pretty good so far. I'm curious to see what their Puppeteer will look like...

Posted by: Steve Gigl on April 6, 2004 02:50 PM

One of the curious things about using centrifugal force to substitute for gravity is that walking in one direction results in a net loss of energy, while walking in the other direction results in a net gain. In effect, the entire world would "feel" as though it were on an inclined slope, with the direction the ring is turning being "uphill" and the direction opposite being "downhill."

The consequences of having an "infinite hill" would generally be that loose matter would generally start rolling, shifting, or otherwise moving downhill. In time, this loose matter would lose enough rotational velocity that it would no longer be forced against the ring, and instead start drifting into the air, into space, and gradually falling into the star at the center.

So there either has to be a roof on the "ringworld" as well, or some means to keep the matter pressed against the ring (artificial gravity, perhaps.)

And, of course, enough asteroid hits on the outside of the ring would eventually weaken it enough to make the whole thing fly apart. Since interstellar debris striking a ring of that size is a near-certainty, there needs to be something to protect the outer hull of the world as well.

Of course, this is all well-worn territory, and no doubt Niven has his explanations for all this already.

Posted by: Tatterdemalian on April 7, 2004 04:30 AM

The asteroid hit issue was actually covered in several of the Ringworld series. It is a key plot point in one of the novels, because the mechanism to adjust the distance of the ring from the "sun" becomes broken, and requires some involved maintenance.

Posted by: Jon on April 7, 2004 12:37 PM
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