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Centrifugal Farce

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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 (whether hinted at or shown explicitly) in the hands of overzealous writers. Or some character could forcefully spin one or more enemies to incapacitate them with dizziness symptoms. After being subjected to the insanity, characters will often stumble off in a daze, followed up by a Non Sequitur, *Thud*.

Subtrope of Spectacular Spinning. See also When Things Spin, Science Happens.


    open/close all folders 

  • 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."

    Asian Animation 
  • Happy Heroes: In Season 10 episode 1, one of the incidents that Happy S. and his fellow Supermen ignore on their way to school is a bunch of people being sent driving at high speed on a malfunctioning roller coaster, with the roller coaster car creating a large flame in front of it from how quick it's going. Happy S., missing the cue to help them, responds with "They're having so much fun!".

    Comic Books 
  • 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.
  • There's an unusually graphic Vomit Indiscretion Shot in the Doctor Who (Titan) story "Ghost Stories", when the Twelfth Doctor incapacitates some armed robbers by spinning them in a revolving door.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • 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.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Moonraker. While on a tour of Drax' aerospace facility, James Bond is put in such a machine by Holly Goodhead and given a spin. While he is undergoing this, Holly is called away and Drax's henchman Chang takes over, turning the dial up and subjecting Bond to multiple gravities of force. Just before falling unconscious, Bond uses one of his gadgets to shoot the control panel and turn the machine off. When Goodhead shows up to get him out of the machine, the normally unflappable Bond is so rattled that he can't even come up with a witty quip.
  • In a rare example of being used for its intended purpose, the centrifuge appears in The Right Stuff as part of astronaut training.
  • Used to comedic effect for the same type of training in Space Cowboys
  • The centrifuge is used in the film Spies Like Us. The heroes then go to lunch looking and sounding weird.
  • The movie RocketMan (1997) (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 celebrating their victory over a rival baseball team by going to a carnival. They try chewing tobacco for the first time to emulate their baseball idols, and then get onto a fast spinning carnival ride. Vomit ensues all over themselves and a girl sitting behind them.
  • The over-the-top amusement park rides in the opening scene of Spy Kids 2: Island of Lost Dreams 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.
  • One of the more light-hearted moments in First Man is Neil Armstrong's first experience with the three-axis centrifuge, especially when a clearly addled Armstrong goes to his next training class only to get a massive Doorstopper of a textbook (figuratively) thrown at him. However, the scene is also an opportunity for him to show how cool he is under pressure (and a foreshadowing of his much more serious encounter with centrifugal gee-forces on his Gemini 8 mission).

  • 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.
  • In the Hank the Cowdog book The Case of the Vanishing Fishhook, Hank has swallowed a fishhook that was baited with liver. Slim tries to get him to throw it up by force feeding him a ton of liquid soap and then spinning him in circles. Ironically, it doesn't work for Hank, but Slim has to duck out for a moment to vomit.

    Live-Action TV 
  • All That: In the "Tilt a'Hurl" sketch, the roller coaster's operator always gets puked on as the passengers enter the loop-de-loop.
  • 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.
  • In Fort Boyard, the "Gagarine" challenge has the contestant tied to a gyroscopic chair and spun around while Père Fouras is asking him/her one of his riddles.
  • 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.
  • Road Rules season 5 last episode ("Ice Castles"). The Road Rulers receive a clue about what their next challenge will be: a motion sickness bag. They are required to ride 30 amusement park rides in two hours, including roller coasters, with the intent that they will end up getting sick on camera. It works - several of them end up puking their guts out.

    Puppet Shows 
  • In the film Muppets from Space, Rizzo spins in the centrifuge in C.O.V.N.E.T. while enduring science experiments.

    Video Games 
  • Kerbal Space Program supplies both the page image (via Fan Art) and now, in the official trailer for release .21, an animated CGI version.
  • In Sam & Max Hit the Road, the Cone of Tragedy at the Kushman Bros. Carnival spins around at insane speeds, as befitting its name. If you ride it, Sam will lose all his stuff and have to get it back from the Lost and Found... along with an item you need to progress in the game.
  • In Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater you can do this to Snake at will by spinning him around in the Survival Viewer. If Snake's sick from eating rotten or poisoned food, you can cure him by forcing him to vomit. You can also escape from the prison cell by making Snake vomit, then taking out the guard when he comes in to check on you.

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • Adventure Time: In "Five Short Graybles", Princess Bubblegum puts a cow into a centrifuge to make a block of cheese for "the perfect sandwich".
  • BenMummy and a Werewolf-esque alien fight next to one of these in an episode of Ben 10.
  • 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 and 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 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 makes it faster. 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: In How I Spent My Vacation, Hampton's family (and Plucky) go to Happy World Land and witness the "Happy Centrifuge" ride. When the spinning stops, the ride car tips up on its end and out oozes the melted passengers.
  • Briefly shown in Barbie and the Rockers: Out of This World. Barbie, whose OP characterization has been ramped up (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", while a MAD agent turns it up to maximum speed in an attempt to kill Gadget.
  • A Gentlemen's Duel. The Englishman grabs the arm of his French opponent's Steampunk 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.
  • T-Bone and Razor are seen training in a dual centrifuge in an episode of SWAT Kats: The Radical Squadron, justified because they're vigilantes that fly an insanely fast Cool Plane and would need to train for the high gs the Turbo Kat would put them through. Their reactions while in the centrifuge are downplayed with Razor showing the most facial effects and passing out while T-Bone powers on through, something that Razor feels ashamed of. Towards the end of the episode he actually stays conscious when T-Bone is forced to put the Turbo Kat through even higher speeds... only to find out that T-Bone, the pilot of their jet passed out instead!
  • In the The Powerpuff Girls (1998) episode, "Him Diddle Riddle", one of Him's challenges for the girls is to defeat a giant monster without using their superpowers. At one point, Buttercup attempts to attack the monster with a military helicopter. The monster grabs the helicopter by its rotors, causing it to spin out of control. When Buttercup lands, she turns a sickly green and throws up in a trash can.
  • In Bébé's Kids, Leon gets sick on a Tilt-A-Whirl ride and throws up inside it.
  • Implied in Ed, Edd n Eddy. Ed develops an imaginary friend and has Edd and Eddy spin in a chair. He then has his imaginary friend spin in the chair and claims that it causes him to throw up.
  • The Kim Possible episode Motor Ed begins with Ron flashing back to the time he ate too many hot dogs and got on a spinning ride. Ron's face turns green and then some poor clown below looks shocked as a growing shadow appears on his face. The impact happens offscreen.
  • Batman: The Animated Series: In "What is Reality?", the Riddler traps Commissioner Gordon in virtual reality and then traps him in a centrifuge device. Riddler taunts Batman and Robin by saying that since Your Mind Makes It Real, if Gordon is not freed soon, he will suffer a heart attack. Batman attempts to Cut the Juice, but Riddler warns that the sudden stop will be like slamming into a brick wall. To free Gordon, Batman has to enter the virtual world.


Video Example(s):


Fireworks in the gas tank

Duncan tries slowing Chef down by adding fireworks to his car's gas tank. Instead, the car goes so fast that Chef's head gets flattened into his neck.

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