What is the Ringworld

The Ringworld is an imaginary artificial structure imagined and written about by Larry Niven. If you only read one science fiction book in your life my personal recommendation would be "Ringworld". And if you get hooked there is more on the Ringworld in "Ringworld Engineers" and "Ringworld Throne".

So what is it. Well, try to imagine the Earth traveling around the sun, drawing out a huge circle as it goes. Now imagine that there are 125 Earths stacked pole on pole upon each other, and further that these Earths are laying out behind them as they travel a ribbon of material a million miles across with one side facing the sun and the other facing away. When the orbit around the sun is complete there is a vast ring around the sun. Now sculpt the inside surface with mountains and rivers, plains and oceans and spin it around to create some 'gravity'. Add thousand mile high walls at the edges of the ring to hold in an atmosphere and there you have it. The Ringworld, with the surface area of three million Earths. More living space than you would find around a million stars.

Shadow squares

On the Ringworld the sun is always at midday, (unless something is seriously wrong) and to simulate the cycle of day and night that the inhabitants of natural, spherical worlds enjoy the makers of the Ringworld put a string of black squares linked by strong wires into orbit around the central star at a distance of about the orbit of Mercury. These squares cast huge shadows onto the surface of the Ringworld, which, as they move simulate day and night.

The Arch

One consequence of the structure of the Ringworld is that wherever you stand on its surface you will be able to see, in the very far distance, ahead of you and behind you the Ring rising up above you. During the day it is faint and the sun will obscure it higher up, but at night it is a glorious sight as alternate strips of lit and shadowed Ringworld surface rise up to meet at the zenith. It will look as if a huge arch stands over you. An arch whose feet you could never reach.

Some figures

1 Day is 30 hours

1 Turn is 7.5 days (the time it takes the Ringworld to revolve once)

75 Days is ten Turns is 1 Falan

Its mass is 2x10exp27 kg

Its radius is 95 million miles

Its circumference is 597 million miles

Its width is 997,000 miles

Big ain't it - go here to see how big!

Some images

The following images were all created in one evening and are a first draft attempt at representing the vast structure described above. If you have any thoughts on their realism and how I can improve them then I would like to hear from you.




The above picture is as seen from some 200 million kilometers from the star - which has been dimmed somewhat. The shadow squares are barely visible.





This second image is a section of the inside of the ring as seen from the region of the shadow squares, some 100 million Kilometers away. The blueness of the lit strips is a result of making the land/water ratio 70%. I hadn't imagined the ratio to be that myself, but it'll do for a start.





Moving in closer now, a mere half million kilometers up, looking straight down on an area half in shadow and half in light. Here you can see in some detail the effect of the 70% water figure. I had trouble getting the land colours right and in the end sampled them from a full globe pic of the earth. The clouds would not exhibit the same patterns as those found around a spinning spherical body, but as to whether they would look like this - well, comments are invited.





Finally, for now, a view along the surface showing one side of "The Arch" rising from what passes for an horizon on the Ringworld. This image is as seen from roughly 5000 kilometers above the surface.


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