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The bottomless pit

A multi-billionaire has decided to build a dungeon for real as a commercial venture. This is not your reasonably-convincing or VR version. It is a full-blown, full-sized dungeon based on a typical RPG.

The instigator, whose name is Donald Munchausen (or DM for short), wants to make things as true to fantasy as possible but he lives in the real world so he cannot use magic. However he can use pretty much any current technology.

His aim is to provide as real and thrilling an experience as possible without actually seriously injuring his customers.

Question

How, using only modern technology and no magic, can he simulate a bottomless pit?

The requirements are that a participant who falls into it will feel as though they are falling forever. They will experience the terror and loneliness but, when the game ends, they can safely and quickly be recovered from the "pit" in good physical (if not mental) condition. They should be able to "fall" continuously for at least a day, although that would be rare as these pits usually occur near the final stages of the adventure.


Notes

Before entering the dungeon, participants have psychological tests and are warned that the experience may be terrifying in the extreme but that they will ultimately be safe. They have to sign a waiver absolving the company from all responsibility - including accidental death or injury - and of course post-traumatic stress disorder.

Please ask for any necessary clarifications before answering.

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  • $\begingroup$ "Falling" for an entire day seems like it would interfere with basic biological functions. How physiologically fit will your participants be? $\endgroup$
    – Kevin
    Feb 3 at 5:18
  • $\begingroup$ I mean with a wind tunnel, this might be possible... but what happens when they soil their loin clothes? that's my real question $\endgroup$
    – WernerCD
    Feb 3 at 5:41
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    $\begingroup$ @WernerCD it hits the fan? $\endgroup$ Feb 3 at 7:43
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    $\begingroup$ Obviously, the "bottomless pit" should funnel you directly into the Game Over Lounge where you can buy merchandise and cocktails $\endgroup$ Feb 4 at 13:53
  • $\begingroup$ @Matt Timmermans - Excellent idea. Of course you must experience a reasonable amount of terror first. It's realism that people are paying for! $\endgroup$ Feb 4 at 13:56
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Indoor skydiving

enter image description here

Indoor skydiving simulators are popular and not particularly difficult to build.

A person who falls into a "bottomless pit" would feel like they're falling faster and faster, reaching terminal velocity. In reality, the person would stay suspended in one place, with wind tunnel supporting their weight. If there's total darkness in the pit, there's no real way to tell if you are falling or not.

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  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Feb 5 at 13:36
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I will go for a variation of the indoor skydiving which will spare DM from make an overly large tunnel: instead of making a tunnel so wide that it cannot be crossed in a day of maneuvering, you can equip its walls with high definition screens and display on the screens what would look like a rocky and sharp pointed wall moving really fast.

You can top that with IR sensors that show it only in the direction where the head of the adventurer is pointing, in case the subject is wearing a head-lamp. You will need the sensors anyway because, in case someone has the bright idea of falling with a vertical attitude rather than with a horizontal one, you need to adjust the air speed accordingly, else they will quickly call out the bluff.

Instead of being slammed on the rocky walls of the well, most of those falling in the pit would stay away from them. And for those who try to reach them, DM can add nozzle blowing them away from the edges as they get too close.

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    $\begingroup$ Doesn't it make more sense for the windspeed to just be high enough to suspend them even if they try to drop vertically? It seems like it would anyway need to taper off, since you need to be able to fall into the pit in the first place, and it needs to be able to safely slow your actual speed until you're "floating". $\endgroup$
    – Matthew
    Feb 2 at 14:00
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    $\begingroup$ ...so? My thinking was that, yes, they'll "settle" at a different level depending on their body position, and will move up and down as their body position changes. That seems safer (and less complicated!) than trying to adjust the airflow in real time to compensate for the person moving around. $\endgroup$
    – Matthew
    Feb 2 at 16:38
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    $\begingroup$ @Matthew, they won't settle. Just to put some numbers, if the limit velocity for falling horizontally is 130 km/h, and the limit velocity for falling vertically is 160 km/h (lower cross section, thus higher speed to achieve same drag), staying horizontally in a flow at 160 km/h will move you up at 30 km/h. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Feb 2 at 17:40
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    $\begingroup$ The wind tunnel is V shaped, so that the wind speed on the lower part is 160 and on the upper part is 130. $\endgroup$
    – Christian
    Feb 2 at 17:54
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    $\begingroup$ What Christian said. (Or by whatever other mechanism that the wind speed tapers off, as I stated in my original comment. Because you want it to be zero at the point they fall into the pit.) You appear to have overlooked my suggestion that the wind speed is height (depth?) variable rather than time variable. (I was thinking of having the sides be permeable, but whatever works...) $\endgroup$
    – Matthew
    Feb 2 at 17:57
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Indoor Wind Tunnel.

If you’re willing to go for a slightly less realistic, as in no feelings of zero gee, then a wind tunnel will let the person feel like they are falling until it is turned off. If the participants are the risk taking type, and some release forms have been signed, then it is conceivable the wind tunnels could have trapdoors on top of them.

Video for reference.

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    $\begingroup$ this is the same as the answer Alexander posted 10 minutes before yours. $\endgroup$
    – Jasen
    Feb 2 at 9:01
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    $\begingroup$ I spent a little while making the answer in the post box, combed through YouTube videos eats up a lot of time, and his answer wasn’t up when I started. $\endgroup$ Feb 2 at 19:07
  • $\begingroup$ Just to note: as mentioned in comments on other answers, this is a more realistic simulation of “freefall in a bottomless pit” than being in 0g would be. $\endgroup$ Feb 2 at 23:21
  • $\begingroup$ I wasn't accusing you of copying, sometimes it's a race to post first. $\endgroup$
    – Jasen
    Feb 3 at 0:48
  • $\begingroup$ Bottomless pit is almost exactly like vertical wind tunnel, so zero-G would be the unrealistic option. $\endgroup$
    – hyde
    Feb 4 at 20:20
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Frame Challenge: Lucid Dreaming and VR

You don't want VR, but VR is current technology, and since scientists have discovered a way of brain-to-brain interface, it shouldn't be much of a stretch for DM and his team and researchers to find a way to send electrical impulses from a server to a brain and back.

After all, we do know what part of the brain is responsible for creative thinking and visual interpretation, so why can't we send electrical signals to those parts of the brain? All we'd need to do is translate those electrical signals from IBM to HBF (Human Brain Format) so the recipient's brain can interpret signals into visual and perhaps even sensory information.

This would, of course, work best if the brain of the "PC" was in lucid dream mode; hypnosis is a state of enhanced suggestion, so perhaps it could be used to help there, or perhaps some testing will need to be made on lucid dreaming technology.

The genius of this is that A) the user's brain and imagination will add in and flesh out the virtual information it's given, B) the dungeon will seem incredibly real, but actually won't exist (cutting down on construction costs), C) DM can use both skilled programmers and the power of lucid dreaming to create an immersive, realistic experience the likes of which will likely be unparalleled by the contrived methods that would need to be used to create an IRL-yet true to form-RPG dungeon D) working off the above point, the dungeon (and the sequence of events) can change; just like in a dream, the unexpected can happen, and the strange and impossible can become reality.

In any case, I hope this helps. Oh, and one last thing: let imagination rule!

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    $\begingroup$ I'm not convinced we are even near this yet. Reality is very real. You hear the sounds, feel the wind on your face smell the BO of ogres, see in the highest definition possible. I think it will be a long time before all this is possible. Okay - maybe for the rats. The big problem is, where do you get all these sensations from that are being fed into the adventurers brain. Did someone else have to fall into a genuine bottomless pit in order to pass on all the sensations to a customer? $\endgroup$ Feb 2 at 14:43
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    $\begingroup$ Not at all! I had a very strange dream where I was pushed off a building by a giant piece of cardboard, and trust me, that sensation of falling was very real. Put the right signals to the sensory processing center of the brain, and your imagination should fill in the blanks. $\endgroup$
    – Alendyias
    Feb 2 at 14:45
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    $\begingroup$ To record that dream, you would have to be connected to some machine every night and, even then, you might never have such a dream. They would have to have thousands of dreamers and hope that somewhere along the line, they would dream of being in a dungeon. It's quicker and cheaper to build a real pit. $\endgroup$ Feb 2 at 14:56
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    $\begingroup$ "Put the right signals to the sensory processing center of the brain" No-one is within a million miles of this yet. What are the "right signals" to produce a realistic feeling of falling through a trap door and continuing to fall forever? No-one knows those signals. Also I suspect that for this to work, each adventurer would require brain surgery, like the rats did. Again, it's easier to build a pit. P.S. I haven't downvoted. I just think there's a long way to go before Total Recall becomes reality. $\endgroup$ Feb 2 at 15:02
  • $\begingroup$ OK, thanks. It's an idea, a rather-close-to-Sci-Fi idea, but a good idea nonetheless. $\endgroup$
    – Alendyias
    Feb 2 at 15:16
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You're not going to get a day of zero gee on Earth. You have to use a space station (a large one, rotating for "artificial gravity" by centrifugal force), in which case you simply package the poor victim in a membrane, jostling him against the sides of the 'pit' every now and then to cover any course corrections so you can avoid hitting any important spacecraft. (For the rest, you have a mounted snowplow and very good space debris insurance)

The only other way I can think to do it (short of tapping into the nervous system neuron by neuron in which case reality is no longer relevant) is you have to drop him into a trap that very rapidly tunes into the macula of the sacculus of the membranous labyrinth of his inner ear, which detects up/down acceleration, and manipulates the otoliths of its membrane so as to mimic the lack of force they would experience if there were zero gravity. We're talking about making a set of laser tweezers using terahertz or something that can penetrate the side of his head, and getting the force just right in an instant as the victim falls through a floor. This will take some practice runs - fortunately, your problem did not say he can't injure test subjects hired/captured on some pretense.

With amusement I notice the answer above is also valid. I assume zero gravity, and they assume Earth gravity would be fine. This gets to the philosophy of a bottomless pit. Being bottomless, it can't hold up air, so the air and all within it is constantly accelerating downward, right? New air must be sucked in constantly, unless the hole is plugged by a suspiciously lovely Persian rug. Or... is there an infinite amount of air all locked in frame with the surface of the Earth? Hmmm.

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    $\begingroup$ The problem of space is that there wouln't be gravity anywhere. This would mess up the experience in the rest of the dungeon. $\endgroup$ Feb 2 at 0:55
  • $\begingroup$ Sorry, I was assuming it was rotating but didn't actually say that. I clarified this above. $\endgroup$ Feb 2 at 0:59
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    $\begingroup$ if it was rotating there would be more gravity in the pit, not less. $\endgroup$
    – Jasen
    Feb 2 at 8:59
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    $\begingroup$ Once you reach terminal velocity, drag equals the force of gravity - the force of the air pushing back is exactly equal and opposite to your weight. This doesn't feel like zero G, it feels like exactly like one G. Once you've hit terminal velocity, skydiving is basically equivalent to lying facedown in an elevator that's descending at a constant speed (it's just very windy). Falling into a bottomless pit won't feel like floating in a space station. $\endgroup$ Feb 2 at 15:12
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Invisible Electrostatic Wall

After they drop in to the pit a little you hold them in place with an electrostatic wall, it'll take some work to replicate what they accidentally did at the 3M plant but you are working for a billionaire afterall, some fans can give passive wind resistance (presuming the field doesn't block wind too) to still feel like falling whilst being locked in position.

Just paint the walls with vantablack so they have no visual reference points in the dark pit.

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  • $\begingroup$ If you could put the relevant part of that link in the answer, its quality would greatly improve and we would not depend on a perishable link to fetch that information. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Feb 3 at 7:52

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