Coriolis effect

As pointed out in a previous post centrifugation is the method proposed in space colonization literature to replace gravity in orbital space habitats. Though the centrifugal force is the most well-known effect of a rotating object (if not, consider your washing machine for a moment), its sister force, the Coriolis force is less known.

This is petty as if you have one (centrifugal), you also have the other (Coriolis). Also this fictitious force has a funny but important effect, as is explained in the videos below.

For the residents of a rotating space habitat the Coriolis force will have a few but important consequences. If you would drop something within a space habitat it won’t fall straight on the floor. Instead it will fall a little bit off. How much will depend on the angular velocity of said habitat.

You might think this is only a little inconvenience, consider for a moment an elevator within a space settlement. For a properly working elevator, moving up and down a straight line is essential. Also people might suffer from nausea as a result of this effect, if the are moving up or down (even if they don’t, as their head will move slower than their feet).

Fortunately, the larger the radius of a space habitat is, the lower its angular velocity needs to be and consequently the weaker the Coriolis effect will be (on short distances). But it will never disappear and hence still needs to be taken into account.