2001:a space odyssey

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 Centrifuge model

Intellectual copyright of  Ian Walsh 2003 (revised 2005, 2008)

If any of this material is used please give a credit mention and let me know by E-mail. Thank you.


Interior of the USS Discovery One

(mostly concerning the Centrifuge)

Hi res. drawings of the Centrifuge

Over a period of years, I have been working in collaboration with Dennis Gonzales of The 2001 A Space Odyssey Collectibles Exhibit.......Dennis is a very talented graphic artist, working for NASA !.....He has turned my centrifuge drawings into wonderfully detailed high definition renditions, the 'Definitive' Centrifuge!!!!!

Over 100 E-Mails of Photos, details, screen grabs, drawings, sketches, and lots of 'tweaks' have been exchanged between us. Below is the result.

Dennis will at sometime put these same drawings onto his website but at a much greater resolution..........(see High res. pic. sample, below)

NEW ! Centrifuge model

Centrifuge side one (re-drawn by Dennis Gonzales)

Centrifuge side two (re-drawn by Dennis Gonsales)

Centrifuge high res. detail sample drawn by Dennis Gonzales

 Centrifuge edge on (re-drawn by Dennis)

http://www.2001exhibit.org .






The Discovery 'Centrifuge'

(July 2005)

Seen around the circumference edge of the centrifuge set, are numbers marked 0 to 112.

although they are regularly spaced, I had not been able to figure what 'units' the marked divisions were....

Until NOW !  when it occurred to me to try Pi.(3.141)

 112ft. divided by 3.141(pi) =  35.65 ft..............

The Divisions seen on the set edge are FEET.......

(They must be, because 35.65 Ft dia. is within a few inches of my earlier '2003' calculation* seen below !)

and 112 ft is the circumference of the set floor at the marked points.

(marked at 'floor' level by black triangular 'arrows')


The Centrifuge, at 'floor level' is 35.65 ft in diameter  (where the 112 One foot apart triangular marks also are)

put another way, the floor of the centrifuge if laid out flat, would be 112 feet long.


(Written in 2003)

The 2001 novel Quotes 35 ft Dia. for the Centrifuge. The set itself, is universally quoted in 2001 'fandom' at 40 ft Dia. But across where? the inside (floor), the outside (under floor structure) or the  support structure......

I counted the floor Tile panels right around the circumference, not easy... as you have to jump from scene to scene to get a clear view, each time noting the edge of an object relative to the floor joins in order to get the whole floor plan (and the film is 'mirrored' in places just to make things even more fun) ... next I calculated the size of each panel, using different methods, as they occurred to me, for example a persons foot on a panel (guess the shoe size technique) .Then there is (especially) 'the thank goodness for Imperial sizes' method (8'x4' ply sheets)...... and finally there was 'the guess the whole set size' (using people, ladders, benches, etc.) when I had done all the techniques I could think of, lifting information from still photographs, and the film itself, then multiply the tile size by the amount of tiles, to get the circumference, and to get the diameter. Thing is, I have not come across any original set, plans for this set, nearly everything was destroyed, so you can only do your best and feel happy in your own mind that you have...below are my findings.

About the tiles

I did not consider the size of the tiles in the first instance......(except as an 'educated' guess using shoe sizes (of the people standing on the centrifuge set) etc. doing this gave at least, an 'order of magnitude' of the Tile size.....)

There are unquestionably 48 tiles around the (floor) circumference.  The centrifuge was a real structure, (Set) and as such it had to be made out of something. I used to work in a carpentry workshop. Where we used 8'x4' sheets all the time... and if any job could be done with the minimum of cuts on a 8x4 sheet , it was ... eg. half a sheet = either 4ft x 4ft or 2ft x 8ft .

8x4. sheets (and sheets cut in equal parts) seemed a reasonable guess to start with,  and to follow through all the 'permutations' of such a guess, to see where the guess would go........so by careful measurements of pictures showing the construction of the centrifuge set, I have deduced the following.

Making up the floor can be seen two 4ft (wide) ply sheets together, then on the outside edge of the centrifuge set is half of a sheet e.g. 2 ft....(The other half of the set is the same  e.g.exactly mirrored) 

Ok..... now as to the opening that the pairs of 'floor access doors' fit into ... originally This is what I said,  "The two doors together span a gap of 3/4 's of a sheet.... so 3 ft.......(the doors would fit into this gap twice.....18"+18" =  3ft)"..... But due to some correspondence with a Fellow 2001 'Fan' , Eamonn O'leary...I have had a re-think about the clearance needed.......and have re-assessed, and attempted to re-measure. However the measurement ( from Pictures ) is too small to detect.......but never the less what Eamonn said made sense.......so I am , altering the  width of the opening that the doors fit into............. (Eamonn has also supplied me with reference material and photos that I had not seen before, As well as lots of very Interesting Insights into other aspects of the Film) .

The length of the doors is 4ft 6in (54in.)   The next thing I did was to determine how many doors at 54in. would be required to exactly fit 48 Tiles onto, and at the same time give a diameter of about 35 ft.....the answer is 24 doors...... 48 Tiles, 24 doors !! two Tiles must fit onto a door... so each Tile must be 27 inches long... 2 x 27 = 54 in.  It was only at this stage that I realized that the Tile is also 27 small squares long. To me this would be too much of a coincidence......and far too elegant to not be correct..........I see no evidence that the 'small squares' decorating the surface of a floor tile, are anything but square... if so the Tiles are 17 inches widesee here

 Above I mentioned that the gap into which the door pairs would fit needs some 'clearance' between the doors and frame ...(on each hinge side , and down through the middle...The middle slot is where the camera support runs) ......the easy 'division' to make is a division is of 3 equal parts,  but better would be to have hinge clearances of less width than the central slot, (which after all, had to take into account any 'pinching' movement of the two halves of the set as it rotated.....and still allow the camera support and associated  power cables to run freely)...So say,17"+17"(doors) +1/4"+1/4"(for Hinge clearance)+ 3/8"(for the camera slot)......Total.....34 and 7/8 inches.....(an inch and 1/8 less that I originally said)   It now all becomes a question of proportions.........I am as sure as I can be, that proportionally ( one item relative to another ) that all of the above is (now) correct.... (but if I am wrong about the 8ft x 4ft sheets...and the Sheet width used is greater... say 5 ft.....then all the above sizes will become proportionally larger too...and the opposite would apply if I overestimated) But if so, the above would lose its 'Elegance'..........for instance if the Tiles were to be 16 inches across (and not 17) why would the 'Tilemaker' then go to the bother to divide the tile into 17 divisions....... when the same 'measure' he used to gauge its width, is already covered with pre made units (inches) with which to divide the tile easily...   also concerning the Tiles...I think that they were 'purpose made' for 2001........If they had been commercially available, I think that an example would have appeared at conventions, and on 2001 internet sites by now and non have.  

PICTURE: Floor access doors open    PICTURE:  pair of access doors open (open seen externally)   PICTURE doors open


The Conclusions (2003).... 

The Floor of the centrifuge Set is made from 'standard' 8ft x 4 ft. ply-wood sheets....the ply floor is made accordingly (from edge to edge)....... 2ft+4ft+4ft+17 inches,17 inches+4ft+4ft+2 ft...Plus 3 gaps of 1/4+ 1/4+ 3/8 inch (for hinge clearance and central slot ) making a total floo width of  22ft. 10 and7/8 inches... (23 Feet.. near enough)  

The slot 'doors' around the 'middle' are each  17 in.wide x  4ft 6 in long (54in)..... 

Each Floor tile is divided into 25x15 small squares.........plus an equally sized border all around the edge..... (consequently the Tiles are effectively 27 x 17 small squares each)  

The 'visible' floor is 6 tiles wide 6 x 17'' = 102 inches (8.5feet)   The floor is wider than this in places, with 'borders'.......making a Max. width of 10 ft 6 inches..........

The 'narrowest' gap is 2 tiles wide (plus a 2''  border each side)=17+17+4 inches = 38 inches (3ft 2'')

about 13 and a half sheets of 8ft ply fit around the circumference.  

Two of these tiles will fit on to a single 'Slot' door ....2 x 27''=54''  

The floor tiles are 17 inches x 27 inches.... So consequently the small tile surface squares are  1 (one) inch square.

There are 48 floor tiles around the circumference, and  24 'slot' doors.....

48 Tiles x 27 inches is 1296 inches (108 ft.) and allowing 1/4 inch between each tile for 'expansion under the hot lights' = 12"  so floor is 109 ft. Circumference)

109 ft. (1308")  Divided by Pi..........is 34.70 feet Diameter....      (* less than 12" out, from the above )





Thanks for insights on centrifuge details to Michael Harris, Eamonn O'Leary, Agostino Ambrosio, Richard Compton

Extra Information

The 12 'Light Panel Units' in the centrifuge, do not have their 'centre of radius' corresponding on the 'rotation' axis of the Centrifuge.....They 'Focus' at the 4 points marked with + in the picture titled. "Light units".....  All the Panels were made exactly the same, from just the One type of Mould....This saved having Asymmetrical Panels that do not 'Look right' and did away with the need to make glass-fibre moldings for a Left, Right, and Centre panel . Below are some pictures to show what I mean

Fitted Light units      Light units


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