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In WALL•E when Captain McCrea is fighting for control of the Axiom, he ends up forcing the ship to abruptly list when he's thrown off of Auto. This, of course, has the undesirable side effect of throwing everyone that was gathered on the Lido Deck out of their hoverchairs, and they all go sliding down the deck until they hit the walls of the ship.

My question is: Why are they all thrown from their hoverchairs when the ship lists?

It's not as if there's an actual up or down in space; down is a relative direction and usually happens beneath your feet.

Especially when there's use of artificial gravity. The only reason we know that the Axiom is listing at all is because we see her doing so while the camera is fixed outside; to everyone else, it should've gone unnoticed.

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    Not an answer, since it's some time I saw the film, but I think I remember the computer manipulating the artificial gravity system. – bitmask Nov 7 '12 at 23:12
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    it would have been pretty boring if nothing at all happened ;) – zipquincy Nov 8 '12 at 0:20
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    @zipquincy This is true, though it's the only scene in the movie that actually bothered me in terms of "reality factor". I realize that it's sci fi, but everything else seemed relatively feasible... up until that point. – Terrance Shaw Nov 8 '12 at 0:22
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    They all went flying because how else are they going to get away with making a shot of a tide of flabby fatties moving to crush a pack of babies? /joke – Jared Tritsch Nov 8 '12 at 1:26
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    @TerranceShaw - wait - you think its feasible that Apple would create a clunky (though cute) droid like WALL-E? I buy that they made the lady-bot, but not WALL-E. Although, I suppose this is a while after Jobs is gone, maybe John Ives leaves too... ok, I stand corrected. – zipquincy Nov 8 '12 at 2:52
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Speculation

In the trivia notes for the Axiom Pixar Wiki it says:

When WALL-E first sees the Axiom, it is located behind the Horsehead Nebula.

A large Nebula which is starting to form star clusters would have gravity. It is possible the artifical gravity in the Axiom has adjusted itself to deal with the nearby nebula. So when the Pilot yanks the wheel and causes the ship to list, the adjustments made are no longer valid, causing everyone to slide.

Consider this image, which is not based on science.

enter image description here

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Though this may be obvious, I think this was just as much for cinematic effect as the infamous fire extinguisher space flight, and had just as little regard for scientific reality put into its implementation.

But I love a good bit of tangentially scientific speculation! So, let's assume that AUTO controls the gravity of the ship: this would allow it to more effectively stymie the bone deterioration of its passengers, and perhaps create an offset in the event of gravitational interference from planets, stars, nebulae, etc. while it's flying around the galaxy -- as pointed out by user Jack B Nimble.

Now, the ship lists to the side when the captain and AUTO are fighting. It's possible that whatever variable of sentience AUTO has acquired in 700 years is capable of interfering with its mechanical functions -- thus, the gravitational status quo of the ship falters when AUTO is disoriented or surprised by the Captain's assault.

That's the best I've got, though.

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    I don't quite agree. AUTO consciously rotates the ship (and its artificial gravity), and the Captain consciously restores it. It seems like a planned function since the beginning (why is it needed is unknown, though). – Arturo Torres Sánchez Jul 4 '15 at 0:47
  • Ah, yeah, now that I think about it -- he was trying to prevent EVE and WALL-E from putting the plant in the holo-detector, so it makes more sense for that to be a conscious choice. Thanks for your contribution. If the ship's gravity is a thing he needs to be able to control (potentially for above-mentioned reasons, but we don't have anything confirmed), then it makes sense he could use it however he wanted. – skullopendra Jul 4 '15 at 5:15

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