Spinny McSpinface is an ancient generation ship, invented and launched before the creation of Wrap drive and recently arrived at its original destination of A Long Way from Anywhere V. All the crew are long dead because of reasons (possibly related to them trying to reverse the polarity of the life support systems).

Its design is pretty standard for such unenlightened times. As no fake gravity (no, not artificial gravity, fake gravity) systems were available, the ship resembles a spinning cylinder with thrusters at both ends and the direction of 'down' oriented away from the cylinder's central axis. Old records reveal there were plans for an ocean in the middle of the ship, but that particular design feature was scrapped.

The ship is half a kilometre across, has a thickness of 100m and spins at just under 2RPM, giving an effective gravity inside the cylinder of between 0.6G (nearest the centre) and 1G (nearest the outer skin).

The issue with this crude method of simulating gravity is the coriolis effect, and most notably its effects on the human inner ear. This would be especially noticeable as people moved from one deck to another.

There was no room on board Spinny McSpinface for large quantities of antikinetosis medication, so the poor unfortunates that boarded the generation ship all those aeons ago must have some way of dealing with the inevitable disorientation.

The question our scientists need answered is how?


The intent of this question was not to find a minimum radius to avoid the inner ear effects. It was intended as a 'given the radius is too small to avoid adverse effects, how do we deal with that'?

If you want to pick a smaller radius and higher rate of rotation so the effects are more noticeable, feel free to do so, just assume that the spin rate is high enough to cause issues.

  • 7
    $\begingroup$ However they dealed, they have failed because: "All the crew are long dead because of reasons " :o) $\endgroup$ Jan 13, 2017 at 14:38
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @AlexandervonWernherr: Consider it a matter of archeological curiosity. Like wondering how Roman toilet etiquette worked. $\endgroup$
    – Joe Bloggs
    Jan 13, 2017 at 14:42
  • $\begingroup$ If it is under 2 rpm they shouldn't feel the effects anyway. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Jan 13, 2017 at 14:44
  • 7
    $\begingroup$ Am I the only one who rolled in to upvote this solely because of "Spinny McSpinface"? $\endgroup$ Jan 13, 2017 at 18:48
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Later investigations indicate that the crew died not because they accidentally reversed the "alive-dead" axis of their support systems as previously hypothesized, but because they got really trashed one night, cranked the spin rate up to extremely awesome but not-so-extremely safe levels, lost consciousness due to overwhelming G-forces, and subsequently choked to death on their own sick. $\endgroup$ Jan 13, 2017 at 21:49

4 Answers 4


your radius is so large the effect will not be noticeable at only 2rpm.

If you want your people to get nauseous you need to make your radius much smaller, like less than a quarter of what it currently is.



Now people might get a little nauseous entering and exiting your station assuming the airlock is on the center of rotation, especially if accessed by elevator. But that will be short lived and rare.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Upvoted as this answers the letter of the question: How did they get around it? They didn't need to. $\endgroup$
    – Joe Bloggs
    Jan 13, 2017 at 16:15
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Hall 1997 is an excellent summary, and also makes some interesting proposals on using interior design to help residents adapt to coriolis environments. $\endgroup$ Jan 13, 2017 at 18:00

Short answer: High-tech air-sickness bags and mops.
Coriolis-induced nausea was a problem for the original crew and the first few generations, but we've adapted and evolved rapidly since then.

Coriolis-induced nausea was truly a terrible problem for the original crew, such that the survival of the ship was in danger several times. But the next generation -- born into spin 'gravity' -- were significantly less susceptible. Those that were still significantly susceptible tended not to have (as many, if any) children in the spun environment. Our medical staff is doing what it can for the small minority still afflicted.

The result, after over twenty generations, are humans whose inner ears have almost no problems with spin 'gravity.' However, it remains to be seen how well the transition back to planet gravity will go.

  • $\begingroup$ Upvoted as this answers the spirit of the question in an amusing way. How did they get around it? Cleaning supplies and evolution. $\endgroup$
    – Joe Bloggs
    Jan 13, 2017 at 16:16
  • $\begingroup$ Cute, but can you really afford to make this a primary determiner of who has children on a generation ship? $\endgroup$
    – mattdm
    Jan 13, 2017 at 20:28
  • $\begingroup$ Perhaps they use the effect for orientation. This could case them to be disoriented when on a planet. Effectively they loose one sense they developed. $\endgroup$
    – Hothie
    Jan 16, 2017 at 9:45

Assuming that you lower your numbers until the problem appears. (As described in @John's answer)

There are very large differences in how people react to this. Some people can dance on an over-clocked merry-go-round on the deck of a ship at high sea without problems. Other people get queasy just reading the previous sentence.

When choosing the crew for this voyage, one of the criteria would be that they are not prone to motion sickness. So, the first generation is thoroughly tested before take-off and consists of immune people.

Research indicates that motion sickness is inheritable. Another study.

The genetic causes seems to be complex and spread over many genes. This means that some poor people in later generations can pick up a combination of bad genes and get sick. However, this will be a small number. And as @Catalyst said, they will not get children themselves.

The original voyager selection process can lessen this problem by insisting that the entire family of the voyager be immune. However, at some point you will run out of applicants for the job. Should they choose the great applicant with a motion-sick brother, or should they choose the mediocre applicant without any problematic relatives? Decisions, decisions...


Have you ever gotten dizzy from spinning? If so, you know that the sensation of dizziness sets in when the spinning stops, or at least changes rate or direction.

Changing decks doesn't change the rate or direction of spin, it only changes the magnitude of the G-force, so, changing decks wouldn't be felt by the inner ear.

  • $\begingroup$ Have you ever climbed around on a spinning merry-go-round? Changing decks is just like moving towards the center of the merry-go-round: your angular velocity changes, showing up as a balance-disturbing Coriolis force. $\endgroup$
    – Mark
    Jan 14, 2017 at 1:00

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .