A torus is a shape that crops up often in science fiction, when space stations and other creations—like the Halo of the eponymous video game—are imagined. Basically, it’s a very big donut, which seems to be an open invitation to snacking by space creatures but it’s been a popular idea all along. Now, apparently, someone’s posited that one could have a stable planet in the shape of a torus.
The donut planet? It seems mad but apparently it’s quite plausible. A torus planet is possible, a ring of clouds and seas and mountains. Eventually, says the math, it will break down but a sufficiently advanced civilization could mitigate that effect with enough technological intervention.
That’s one of the fantastic things about science fiction. The fictional possibilities are not only endless but actually possible. We’ve even used the idea in our own stories, not for a planet, but for the construction of a space colony—the colony Sender comes from in Escape Velocity, Themis, is constructed in as a torus.
Knowing that it’s plausible for an actual planet, too, is fascinating. Who doesn’t want to write about life on a space donut?
Then, as these things do, it will slip into obscurity, become dated, and fade away… until someone revives it with a new spark, a brilliant idea that uses the concept in a whole new way. That is another fantastic thing about science fiction, the way that something new and futuristic can also recall the nostalgia of our own past. Young readers will call it a classic reference, older readers will remember when it was on the cover of so many books it became mundane.
If we can dream of donut planets and monsters that munch them, science fiction will find a way to use them over and over, until science finds one or makes one—and even then it’ll still be a tempting notion. Because who isn’t fond of donuts?
Until next time,
–Anah & Dianne