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Toroidal Space Colony of the Future (1982)

This image appears in the 1982 book Walt Disney's Epcot Center: Creating the New World of Tomorrow. One thing I find curious about the illustration is that it appears to be of a toroidal (or circular) space station, but you can see what looks like sailboats in the water. My simplistic (child-like, really) understanding of toroidal space colonies leads me to believe that they spin to simulate gravity. But how could there be anything resembling wind within them? Someone smarter than myself, please enlighten us all.

Previously on Paleo-Future:

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Reader Comments (23)

Easy. The colony isn't very airtight, and the rush of air out to vacuum provides the wind.

May 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan Badger

FANS! Giant FANS! ^^

You'd need to get the air circulating anyways, so why don't think big and keep the sailboats in mind?

May 5, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPaddy-o

Anytime there is motion of a container of gas, that gas within will move around as it isn't 'attached' to the walls. In this case a circular tube of gas is spinning in space. The different surfaces in the inner face of the tube creates patterns of resistance and turbulance in air motion. Eventually it is possible to get air movement, or 'wind.' Although i have no idea as to how fast or strong such air movements would be, but i imagine it would have to be enough for the enclosed ecosystem.

May 5, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJred

Where exactly was this shown at EPCOT? Or was it just an illustrated idea that never came to fruition?

Was it part of the great Horizons exhibit that Disney got rid of a decade ago? They replaced it with Test Track, an unforgivable action.

May 5, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGeorge Jetson

The sailboats are actually "solar boats." They have motors powered by the sail-like solar arrays which are installed vertically because most of the direct sunlight in a toroidal station enters at an oblique angle.

May 5, 2009 | Unregistered Commentercoarsegranules

The Horizons portion of the book contains many "city of the future" concept illustrations, this being one of them.

May 5, 2009 | Registered CommenterMatt Novak

Along with what Jred said, thermal convection currents should also come into play here assuming the toroid has day and night cycles. As the air heats and expands on the 'daylit' side, it should be displaced by cooler air and natural currents would result. The strength of the winds would depend on the volume of air and the temperature differentials.

May 5, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterwindsupposer

It was rude of me not to add a Thank You for sharing these wonderful images and information with us.

Such things as depicted above should not be a sad nostalgia trip but something our species must continually strive for. Walt Disney believed in progress as something good for humanity, and he was right.

May 5, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGeorge Jetson

The image is mirrored! At the left of the fountain, behind the terraces, there is a building labeled "2 amenic", probaly meaning "cinema 2" but which almost reads as "too anemic"! ;`)

May 5, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTimeFlies


Thanks! what a blast from the future! Many years ago I wrote a paper in college about NASA's concerted plan in, '76 (?) for a viable moon colony and I remember this illustration from one of the books I was using! FUN!!!


May 5, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAbbyg.

Thermal differential
Depending on the diameter of the habitat, and the strength of the apparent pseudo-gravity, I'd expect the rotational period to be fairly short - a couple of hours, possibly as little as half an hour. I don't know if that would be enough of a difference, for a long enough period of time, to generate winds strong enough to move a boat, but it will have some effect.

Gas in a container
Due to friction / air drag, there would be a momentum transfer from the habitat to the gas, which would eventually bring the average speed of the gas to be about the same as the habitat it's in.

Third idea?
You don't hear about it too much, but a few of the books and articles I've read about rotating habitats has explained that when you're rotating like that, moving with the direction of rotation of the habitat increases your personal speed of rotation, and thus the acceleration or "gravity" you feel. So moving in the direction of rotation is going to feel like moving "up hill". And conversely, moving against the direction of rotation will slow your speed, and the apparent "gravity", and will feel like moving "down hill".

So, in an Escheresq effect, if that river we see runs all the way around the circumference of the ring, it will flow "down hill" opposite the direction of rotation all the way around and flow back into self where it started (although the energy to move the water will steal a little bit of rotational momentum of the habitat as a whole, which will need to be corrected for)

I'd assume the same would hold true for the atmosphere in the habitat. The cold air is more dense than warm air, and will sink down and flow "down hill", while the less dense warm air will rise and flow "up hill" creating continuous countervailing currents of air at different "altitudes" in the ring.

Once again, though I don't know if that would be enough to generate winds strong enough to move a boat.

May 6, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterdocarrol

Any phenomenon that might provide convection currents within the toroid, such as different absorption of heath by buildings, grassy patches, water and such, would produce a 'vertical' air currents. They would be nominally vertical for the inhabitants, but in fact radial and, as such, would be affected by the Coriolis effect.

The air dragged by the floor (external surface of the toroid) has a higher tangential speed than the one in the 'sky' or ceiling (internal surface of the toroid), though both have the same radial speed. When that air heats up and ascends, it will be going too fast for the inner surface. The air close to the ceiling that gets displaced by the warmer air, will go down and will be too slow.

In the end, there would be a continuous breeze blowing 'backwards' if the ground is warmer than the sky, which I would assume would be the case.

May 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSatyam

Oh, the Disneydroid detailed to do the painting probably got carried away while copying the NASA and L-5 society images created a decade earlier.

May 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMaggie Leber

A lot of those concept art paintings were done by the same 3 or 4 people for multiple buyers, mostly stuff by Don Davis, Robert McCall, and Rick Guidice. It's the kind of thing that happens when everybody's cribbing off the same collection of conference papers for what things "should" look like according to the scientists and engineers (at least, until they change their minds...).

May 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRich

it's a torus, not a toroid

May 13, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteryadda

The latest issue of the Space Review has an article on the L-5 Space Colonies
concept as depicted in the July, 1976 issue of National Geographic magazine:

This is the stuff I grew up on. No wonder I find the so-called real future of 2009
to be such an overall disappointment.

May 18, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGeorge Jetson

Well unless they were designing a form of Dyson Sphere. Remember living things on Earth need sunlight. It is not a huge stretch to see the designers including turbines to cause breezes (humans loves breezes) and aid in the control of weather (break up smog or get rain type clouds from point A to XX) . In a created/artificial environment things we take for granted as "nature" would need to be emulated.

June 2, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterIcehawk

This picture reminds me strongly of the council space station in 'Mass Effect', I'm certain of that they used this image as inspiration

June 5, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMyrsnipe

Very neat post and blog!

June 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPatrick Meier

A short film on Island One - Settlements in Space:

July 19, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGeorge Jetson

People in all countries take the credit loans in different banks, because that's easy.

June 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTysonJulia

This looks just like The Citadel from the Mass Effect game series!

August 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMatt

this is one of the best list of SciFi books, specially "Spacial Colonies" this is a awesome book, inclusive in the book some people mentioned a Indian Pharmacy store in one of the space colonies.

October 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBrian Anderson

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