In Home (Season 2, Episode 3 of The Orville) Alara is diagnosed with a bone/muscle mass deficiency that is attributed to her living on the Orville and away from her high gravity home world.

The initial solution to this was to send home to Xelaya in order to recuperate. However towards the end of the episode:

The crew of the Orville determine that they can make a high-gravity area in the Environmental Simulator.

But leads me to my question:

The Orville is an advanced space ship that obviously has Earth normal artificial gravity throughout its decks. So why are the crew initially blind to the idea of local manipulation of this engineering system (and why only decide they can do it in the Environmental Simulator)?

Note that in universe during this episode we have seen:

1. Shuttle craft have their own artificial gravity systems,
2. Captain Mercer wears a compact, full mobility suit on Xelaya that shields him from the effects of Xelayan gravity,
3. Alara uses a slim hover chair on Xelaya (that is seen to float across a beach).

To me, all of this points to the ability to manipulate gravity in small, portable, self powered devices that are capable of standing up to the extremes of Xelayan gravity.

Or is this a sort of a MacGuffin, except in this case the plot is driven by everyone being wilfully ignorant or the capabilities of Earthian engineering?

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    Note that, just because a solution is possible with current technology doesn't mean that someone's had the idea to use that technology in that way. Actually, it's a nice deviation from the Star Trek franchise, where all too often a technological solution is thought of (with gobs of technobabble) within 5 minutes of a problem being seen. – RDFozz Jan 14 '19 at 18:31
  • @RDFozz On the flip side of that, the last 2 episodes have been built around "lets jaunt over to random crewe member's planet on a whim" as if doing so is just as easy as going for a Sunday drive. (not that I am hating on the show - I still say its what any modern ST franchise should be) – Peter M Jan 14 '19 at 19:50
  • I assume you're looking for an in-universe answer? (The real answer is that Halston Sage was leaving the show.) – StarHawk Mar 6 '19 at 20:18

It doesn't appear that the technology is cutting-edge, just that it's not something that can normally be done on a ship like the Orville and she needed to get to a high-G world asap.

Captain Mercer: When would she have to leave?

Dr Finn: To maximize her chances? Soon as possible.

Assuming the crew were working on solutions full-time from the point that she left, it evidently took them several weeks to jerry-rig something that's good enough (note, not perfect) for her to come back on board and continue her treatment there.

Lt. LaMarr: We've managed to create a finite area of stabilized synthetic graviton particles in the simulator...The gravity is amplified, even from what you're used to on Xelayah.

One assumes that the Simulator is used because they need to simulate technology (that potentially exists elsewhere) or just that it's shielded in some fashion from the rest of the ship to prevent the high gravity plane from causing damage to the fixtures. By the same token, if they rigged a shuttle to generate a 50G+ field, presumably it (along with the generator) would be instantly crushed like Malloy's bottle.

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  • But this presupposes that the Earth Normal gravity all throughout the ship is "magically" generated and that they have no control over it. (I say "magically" because 1) why does artificial gravity have to be Earth Normal in the first place? 2) And the production of the gravity system has to be distributed across the ship - a point source won't cut it) – Peter M Jan 13 '19 at 18:55
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    @peterM - I assume gravity is generated on the ship using the same 'gravity generators' that we see on the shuttle. In which case the gravity is held ship-wide at a level that's compatible for most Union species. Apparently Xelayah is highly abnormal – Valorum Jan 13 '19 at 19:23
  • But by pointing out the shuttles you've just shown that gravity generators are small and portable and don't require a significant amount of energy to run. And while most species may appreciate Earth normal gravity I can't suspend my disbelief to the point that I accept that gravity generators inherently produce Earth normal gravity (that would be "magical") – Peter M Jan 13 '19 at 19:35
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    @PeterM - A metaphor might help. I can buy 1.5V batteries anywhere but finding 2V batteries requires me to go to a specialist website. With some effort I can construct a device that turns my 1.5V batteries into 2V, but it's not as simple as flicking a switch, it requires engineering. That may well be the same as the gravity generator on the Orville. It's set to 1G by design. Making it do other things might simply be impossible. – Valorum Jan 13 '19 at 19:45
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    @PeterM - Except that we saw an Earth-normal-gravity bottle crushed like a bug, as were Mercer's ankles. How could they have a gravity generator generate a 10G field without crushing itself? – Valorum Jan 13 '19 at 20:51

The Orville is an advanced space ship that obviously has Earth normal artificial gravity throughout its decks. So why are the crew initially blind to the idea of local manipulation of this engineering system (and why only decide they can do it in the Environmental Simulator)?

Even though technology seen in any science-fiction is much further advanced than that of real, present-day technology, I think it is a mistake to assume that it comes easy to them.

Artificial gravity can be created today using centrifugal force to simulate the effect of gravity, which is why in many sci-fis you see space stations or segments of space stations and ships rotating. Other theoretical science is based on the theory that gravity, like all forces, has a waveform and therefore if we could measure that form and understand it better we could recreate it. In either case, how quickly would you expect engineers in any century to completely re-engineer something (especially if it is mechanical) to work at completely different parameters? How quickly could you expect a present-day engineer to make an engine designed to propel a vehicle at 100mph to work up to 150mph?

Xelayans, at the moment, seem to be the only species in the Orville universe that have such oppressive gravity on their own planets. No other planet visited, whether it has a breathable atmosphere or not, has required the crew to wear special gear to survive the crushing gravity. We also are told that Xelayans look down on the military and it is rare for one to serve on a Union ship. Even though Dr Finn found documented cases of this happening to Xelayans before, it is reasonable to assume that these would have happened on other planets, not necessarily on a spaceship. As a doctor rather than an engineer, Dr Finn logically recommended the treatment that would have been documented - returning to her home planet - rather than assume that a solution could be engineered, either at all, or with sufficient urgency.

As for the question of why they engineered it to work only in the environmental simulator - because if they had done it ship-wide, everybody else would have been crushed by Xelayan gravity. The environmental simulator is a sealed area with its own environment.

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