"I do think there is a link in that in both cases, writing fiction or writing a computer program, at any given moment you're focusing on a very specific and particular thing—one word, one line of code, whatever."
- Neal Stephenson
||Device that maintains Earth-comparable gravity on an asteroid.
|"I'm not trying to challenge your knowledge, and I'm not anxious to make myself look silly. I have a sound reason for asking these questions. There is a possibility of sabotage."
The engineer's grin was wider than the remark seemed to require.
"All right," said Cameron tiredly. "Suppose you tell me why sabotage is so unlikely."
"Well," explained the gravital engineer, "it would have to be someone living here, and he wouldn't like it if he suddenly got double or triple gravity or maybe none at all. But there's another reason. Now take a gravital unit. Any gravital unit. Most people think of it as just that—a unit. It isn't really that at all. It has three parts.
"One part is a power source that can be anything as long as it's big enough. Our power source is a nuclear pile, buried deep in the asteroid. You'd have to take Handicap Haven apart to get to it. Part two is the gravital coil, which actually produces the gravity and is simple and just about indestructible. Part three is the gravital control. It calculates the relationship between the amount of power flowing through the gravital coil and the strength of the created gravity field in any one microsecond. It uses the computed relationship to alter the power flowing through in the next microsecond to get the same gravity. No change of power, no gravity. I guess you could call the control unit a computer, as good a one as is made for any purpose."
The engineer rubbed his chin. "Fatigue," he continued. "The gravital control is an intricate computer that's subject to fatigue. That's why it has to rest an hour and a half to do forty-five minutes of work. Naturally they don't want anyone tinkering with it. It's non-repairable. Crack the case open and it won't work. But first you have to open it. Mind you, that can be done. But I wouldn't want to try it without a high-powered lab setup."
|From Accidental Flight,
by W.F. Wallace.
Published by Galaxy in 1952
Additional resources -
Compare to artificial gravity from Ray Cummings Brigands of the Moon (1930) as well as the more prosaic method used in the City of Space from Jack Williamson's 1931 story The Prince of Space.
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