Centrifugal Farce

The black spots tell you it's working.note 

"My brains are going into my feet!"
— Dark Helmet, Spaceballs

In order for astronauts and fighter pilots to withstand the large amount of G-forces incurred upon takeoff, high-G training is a critical part of the preparation for any launch. This is to prevent g-induced loss of consciousness caused by the forced movement of blood from the brain to the lower extremities. Research done since the 1970s has shown that training to resist g-induced loss of consciousness significantly extends the pilot's resistance to blackouts and extends their g-tolerance in both magnitude and duration.

The method of training pilots to withstand these high g-loads is fairly simple: stick them in a really big centrifuge and spin them around really, really fast.

Naturally, this has found a home in media, often exaggerated for comedic effect. Characters subjected to the centrifuge will appear to be traveling at Ludicrous Speed, complete with comically Flapping Cheeks, eyeballs bugged out, and squashed faces. In some cases, the hapless victims may even be Squashed Flat.

Note that this applies to more than just training centrifuges. For example, carnival rides provide another common source of hilarity. Normally harmless amusement rides become whirling machines of doom and vomit in the hands of overzealous writers. After being subjected to the insanity, characters will often stumble off in a daze, followed up by a Non Sequitur, *Thud*.

Subtrope of Everything's Better with Spinning. See also When Things Spin, Science Happens.


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  • An A-1 Steak Sauce commercial depicted a man using one of these centrifuges to get the absolute last drop of sauce out of the bottle. "Yeah, it's that important."

  • Happens in a Buck Danny comic where the main characters take part in the X-15 flying program. Sonny rather insistently asks the pretty doctor assessing them for a date, prompting said doctor to ask the centrifuge operator to crank up the test Sonny is about to be subjected to. Sonny spends the test yelling and collapses upon exiting the centrifuge.

  • Moonraker. While on a tour of Drax' aerospace facility James Bond was put in such a machine by Holly Goodhead and given a spin. While he was undergoing this, Holly was called away and Drax's henchman Chang took over, turning the dial up and subjecting Bond to multiple gravities of force. Just before falling unconscious, Bond used one of his gadgets to shoot the control panel and turn the machine off.
  • In a rare example of being used for its intended purpose, the centrifuge appears in The Right Stuff as part of astronaut training.
  • In the film Muppets from Space, Rizzo spins in the centrifuge in C.O.V.N.E.T. while enduring science experiments.
  • Not related to training, but on The Iron Giant, Hogarth and the Giant are playing test pilot with an old car. The Giant spins the car a little faster than Hogarth imagined.
  • The centrifuge is used in the film Spies Like Us. The heroes then go to lunch looking and sounding weird.
  • The movie Rocket Man (about a manned mission to Mars) has one. When the Idiot Hero is riding it, he is so unaffected by the forces that the supervisors keep raising the speed, causing the seat to detach itself and go plowing through several corridors.
  • Moscow Cassiopeia had these.
  • The infamous "Tequila" scene from The Sandlot involves a bunch of kids trying chewing tobacco to emulate their baseball idols, and then getting onto a fast spinning carnival ride. Vomit ensues.
  • The over-the-top amusement park rides in the opening scene of Spy Kids 2 are mainly of this type.
  • In Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II, Kazama Aoki is put in a similar device while training to pilot Mechagodzilla. The chair spins in place instead of around an object.

  • In the Moonbeam series of picture books about a chimp at NASA, there is a scene where Moonbeam is put in one these machines, and spends the next few pages stumbling around bumping into things.
  • In the Discworld illustrated story The Last Hero, Leonard straps Rincewind into a Clock Punk centrifuge machine (the diagram of which looks a lot like the Vitruvian Man) before their dragon-powered spaceflight, on the basis that the only way to train for the unexpected is with unexpected training. Before his experience in the centrifuge, Rincewind protests that they're heading for certain death, which you don't need any training for; afterwards he says that if you did, that would be it.
  • Averted in Space Cadet where zero-G training is done via a gravity-drop tower built against a 2000-foot high cliff. On reaching the bottom, you're accelerated up to the top and start over at a faster drop rate.

    Live Action TV 
  • Used in Battlestar Galactica to simulate difficult targeting conditions for Viper pilots.
  • Becomes a minor plot point in the Chuck episode, "Chuck vs. the Gravitron." Chuck is fleeing from a Fulcrum agent, and ducks inside the Gravitron ride at a carnival. The device gets activated, and Chuck and the villain end up flattened against the walls as it spins up. This leads to a scene of them crawling along the walls as Chuck continues his attempt to escape. When the device stops Chuck and the villain get flung into each other, and the villain is incapacitated.
  • An episode of Home Improvement attempts to do this but fails spectacularly. Tim is undergoing astronaut training after a Binford tool is selected to go on the shuttle and they get to send a Binford employee along to use it. During the training Tim is put in a "G-force chair" which is where the attempt falls flat on its proverbial face. The chair is not a proper centrifuge but is merely a fancy chair that spins like any normal office chair. He wouldn't have experienced any G's, just gotten vary dizzy. Never the less he still ends up with a cartoonishly distorted face curtesy of a basic smug tool.

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    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • Adventure Time, "Five Short Graybles": Princess Bubblegum puts a cow into a centrifuge to make the perfect block of cheese.
  • BenMummy and a Werewolf-esque alien fight next to one of these in an episode of Ben10.
  • The Disneyland show episode "Man in Space", which was made in 1955, had a section on how astronauts would be trained, including being put on a centerfuge. Seeing how far the show predates the actual space program, it's remarkable how far ahead the scientists involved (who were consultants on the episode) were preparing.
  • The Simpsons: Homer & Barney each get put in one of these when they're being trained as astronauts. Homer in particular briefly turns into Popeye due to the G's.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In the episode Wonderbolts Academy, the Dizzytron is an obvious parody of this trope. It's also an unusual usage, as it's designed to launch pegasi into the air after it's done spinning—the pegasi are then timed on how quickly they can recover and land safely. Presumably anyone who doesn't recover quickly enough washes out.
  • Pinky and the Brain were put into a one in the episode "Where No Mouse Has Gone Before".
  • One episode of Arthur had an amusement park ride called the Hurl-a-Whirl that did pretty much Exactly What It Says on the Tin: basically a dumbbell-type centrifuge, except the car itself spun perpendicular to the arm as well. The individual cars actually had a dial to increase the ride speed, with the highest setting being "Liquefy".
  • An episode of Rugrats showed Angelica getting on something like this at a carnival. It turns out to be a very high speed one, and when Stu tries to get the operator to shut it off, he misunderstands and turns it Up to Eleven. When Angelica gets off, and Didi asks if she's alright, she responds, "I think so, Uncle Stu."
  • Happen to Chip and Dale in Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers with Gadget and Jack at the controls. They are Squashed Flat when the centrifuge finally stops.
  • Tiny Toon Adventures: Hampton's family go to Epcot and go on a centrifuge-like ride (this episode debuting years before Epcot even had such a ride); Hilarity Ensues.
  • Briefly shown in Barbie and the Rockers: Out of This World. Barbie, whose Mary Sue-ness has been ramped Up to Eleven (to the point where she is able to afford the bajillions needed to paint a space shuttle pink—Unlike Life in the Dreamhouse, this is not a parody), is shown having used one, but showing perfect composure and with her massive perm still intact.
  • Inspector Gadget gets the centrifuge treatment in "Launch Time".
  • A Gentleman's Duel. The Englishman grabs the arm of his French opponent's Steam Punk mecha and starts swinging him around before tossing him into a Big Fancy House, and we get a momentary shot of the pilot with obligatory Flapping Cheeks.