Ringworld

HomePage | Recent changes | View source | Discuss this page | Page history | Log in |

Printable version | Disclaimers | Privacy policy

Title of a science fiction novel by Larry Niven (set in his Known Space universe) in which four explorers, two humans and two aliens of different species, set out to explore an enormous artificial world.

The "Ringworld" is an artificial ring approximately the diameter of Earth's orbit, rotating to provide an Earthlike artificial gravity, with a habitable flat inner surface equivalent in area to millions of Earth-sized planets. Walls 1000 miles tall along the edges keep in the atmosphere.

"Ringworld" has become a generic term for such a structure.

The construction of a ringworld remains firmly in the area of science fictional speculation, since although if such a structure was built, it could indeed provide a huge habitable inner surface, the energy required to construct and set it rotating is so massive (several centuries' worth of the total energy output from the Sun) that without as-yet unimagined energy sources becoming available, it is hard to see this constuction could ever be possible. Furthermore, the tensile strength of the material required would be on the same order as the strong nuclear force; nothing even remotely strong enough is known to exist in nature.

Additionally, a ringworld design requires active stabilization, because it is not in inertial orbit. Though the ring itself is rotating at 770m/s (to approximate Earth gravity), the center of mass does not move at all. Large thrusters must be incorporated into the design to keep it centered about its star.

To provide an approximation of the day/night cycle common to planets, Niven's Ringworld was also provided with a separate ring of "shadow squares" linked together in a ring close to the star. These are also not in inertial orbit, and must be actively stabilized as well.


The novel Ringworld has been followed by two sequels, The Ringworld Engineers and The Ringworld Throne.

See Dyson sphere

/Talk