View Full Version : How to Map an O'Neill Cylinder?

09-21-2009, 02:54 PM
I certainly don't think I have the skills to do it, but I was wondering how the cartographers that frequent the guild would go about mapping an O'Neill Cylinder.

It seems to me that simply laying out three rectangles representing the three living areas side by side would be the simplest way, but it doesn't seem to capture the feel of such a massive structure.

09-21-2009, 03:20 PM
how the cartographers that frequent the guild would go about mapping an O'Neill Cylinder.You mean other than just make a rectangular image and map it to the inside of a cylinder?

doesn't seem to capture the feel of such a massive structure.Capturing vast scale is indeed quite more difficult than it would seem, yes. Sometimes we end up with Godzilla props -- things that are proportionally correct, but carry that sense of "miniature."

09-21-2009, 05:27 PM
You mean other than just make a rectangular image and map it to the inside of a cylinder?

Yes. Just making a rectangular map just doesn't seem to do it justice. Particularly since what you can see in the sky at any point in the cylinder would be just as important as what was around you on the ground.

Maybe something like below. (If they had 4 land masses instead of 3. It's hard to do anything but 90 degree angles in MS Paint.)

09-21-2009, 06:50 PM
That image has a lot of wasted space. Why not make 4 strips for the land and map them into a cylinder? Think in reverse: a cylinder unrolled is a rectangle. Make a rectangle, roll it up ... cylinder.

09-21-2009, 06:53 PM
Oh wait, are you asking how to make a flat map of the inside of a cylinder? Not a 3D view?

09-22-2009, 06:16 AM
I'd suggest that the map show the land areas as rectangles (and circles) next to one another, but include a 3D picture of the cylinder to help give the scale. If your skills are more in drawing flat maps, you needn't feel intimidated by trying to draw a 3D perspective view and keeping it current as your maps progress. That's the easiest part for a 3D modeler. I suspect there are people here who'd be glad to help project your maps into a model.

Don't forget that the interior surfaces are only part of it. There are multiple levels "underground" as well as in and on the end caps.

09-22-2009, 11:19 AM
Simply unrolling the cylinder until it's a flat rectangle like below would be the obvious choice for the simplest way to do it, but to me it just seems to lack impact.

I agree that the first option has a lot of wasted space, but I'd figure it could be filled in with data and little arrows pointing to items of interest. I don't know if option 1 is the best way to go, but to me it just seems to give me the feel of the space colony more than a simple projection like option 2 below does.

09-22-2009, 12:03 PM
Simply unrolling the cylinder ... just seems to lack impact.Strip out the four Sky spaces, and stagger-step the four Land spaces in an artful presentation. In the world of cuisine, it's called "plating." It's not all about the presentation -- the content surely is the primary concern -- but serving it up artfully makes a huge difference.

Edit ... did I say four ... I meant three ... even the Watership Down rabbits count better than I can.

09-22-2009, 12:05 PM
Why restrict yourself to rectangular maps?

Although the ground areas are rectangular, that doesn't mean that their maps have to be. Wedge shapes might be appropriate, for example, if more important items are at one end of the cylinder, needing more details.

09-22-2009, 01:06 PM
I don't know. It still seems lacking.

09-22-2009, 01:09 PM
@Seldon. I don't have a problem with changing the perspective of the map to give an area more room for detail, such as a wedge, but I don't know if it solves the basic problem.

09-22-2009, 01:13 PM
Can you rephrase what you see as the basic problem?
Sometimes explaining a problem in detail can produce ideas for its solution.

09-22-2009, 01:19 PM
fwiw, here's what I was thinking of -- more of a 3D representation.

In this case, the map images themselves are actually flat, but have been projected into a cylinder using a 3D visualization program to improve the presentation.

09-22-2009, 01:35 PM
That's what I was thinking of too, a very simple effect.

I think he wants to know how best to display the mapped entirety of the living surface as a flat map.

09-22-2009, 01:40 PM
From my perspective, the basic problem is displaying a flat map (i.e. one that is useful for navigation or indicating points of interest) in such a way that it lets the viewer really feel the impact of the unique geography of the location. (i.e. that they are on the inside of a huge cylinder)

Simply unrolling the cylinder (as in image 2) gives a precise map that is useful for navigation but it lacks the gut-level impact that I hope can be communicated.

The same goes for image 3 which is a more artistic presentation of image 2.

One solution would be to present the map much as image 2 or 3, but provide a context image with the map (the maps projected onto a cylinder as you did) to let the viewer get the context of the flat maps presented.

I was just hoping to find something that could simultaneously present the map in a relatively flat way that lends itself to use for navigation at the same time presents those flat maps in such a way as to retain the impact of the unique organization of the geography. (i.e. That you can see the other "continents" floating in the sky above you.)

09-22-2009, 02:34 PM
How about a kind of an inverse sinusoidal mapping?


-Rob A>

09-22-2009, 02:55 PM
Don't forget that someone living in a real space habitat probably wouldn't be using a flat map on paper. :) Realtime 3D navigation with a PDA, cell phone or equivalent seems more likely to me. That can be done now, if you want to invest the time in learning the tools. You can get free software to do it or spend lots of money.

If 2D artwork for this Forum is what you want to create, how about showing a partial map as it might be seen on a future display screen, maybe with a 3D navigation icon showing where it is in the cylinder?

09-22-2009, 04:29 PM
Well a 2D rectangular map is accurate so that's the best option, other plans are going to be less clear. However having that as a pull-out from a 3D cylinder will give a much better gut feeling for the size and scope of the world and where the local area is in it.

09-22-2009, 05:22 PM
That's a very interesting map RobA. It probably foreshortens the landmasses too much for use with a cylinder, but that would be perfect for a Bernal sphere. (Which is essentially and O'Neill cylinder except it's a sphere.) It would probably work out even better if the Bernal sphere had water around it's equator so that you didn't have to mentally stitch the edges together.


Maybe something like below might be more appropriate for a cylinder, again assuming 3 land masses instead of 4. It's the same idea, but instead of stretching the landmasses, the window area is cut out.

09-22-2009, 05:29 PM
From my perspective, the basic problem is displaying a flat map ... that it lets the viewer really feel the impact of the unique geography of the location.Read Edward Tufte, "Escaping Flatland."

09-22-2009, 06:54 PM
What about an animated view? Have the different areas of the cylinder progressively move into view and then out.

09-22-2009, 11:01 PM
Sounds hard to print.

09-22-2009, 11:50 PM
? Even if you don't have a screen display, it's easy enough to set up something like that as a flipbook. Now, clumsy I can see, but the OP wants to make a particular impression and clumsy doesn't seem to be priority.

09-23-2009, 10:14 AM
I'll probably have to compromise somewhere. An animated map would certainly solve the problem, but it creates many more of its own. Thanks for the suggestion though.

09-23-2009, 10:30 AM
FWIW, being able to select what maps (surface textures) are to be shown is one of the (many) reasons I use Anim8or (http://www.anim8or.com/) for 3D design and Celestia (http://www.shatters.net/celestia/) for displaying the results. Both are free.

09-23-2009, 07:02 PM
I think that the purpose of the map should be an important indicator of how to lay it out. For example if navigating one of the land masses, it seems difficult to move onto one of the other strips so a square map of one strip at a time seems reasonable. The artists impressions at top of thread seem to indicate that there is an attempt to keep them basically flat even though they span 60 degrees of chord.

The space is inherently 3D so I think a 3D viewing solution is required. Our earth is a globe but were not interested in anything other than its surface which is 2D. If applying the same logic then three square strips is the way to show it but thats bound to lack the 3D nature of it just like mercators etc lack the global feel of the earth maps.

If you did go for three strips then it seem logical that one of them should be much higher than the other two. The high res one being the one your stood on. Since the other two are less important from that proximity.

Id also like to chime in and say that if your not going to print the map on fixed sized paper then wasted space is of no issue.

I still think the fundamental question here is "What is the main purpose of the map", "What information is it meant to convey".

09-23-2009, 07:49 PM
How about a nano view of each sky over its relative landmass.

09-23-2009, 08:12 PM
As far as the wasted space notion, I'd like to posit that just like silence is part of music, too, so emptiness is a part of art. And what is cartography, but a branch of art?

So far, I prefer the rose-design (flat 4-bar spread from the beginning of the discussion), but I think it would be best imitating an active plan. Maybe the rose-design to show a more technical layout of important locations, and one slice at a 3/4 view off to one side, representing the slice currently being examined, where you'd find all the artistic mappy bits.

Alternatively, with the rose-design as it currently is, you could have all the panels have a 3/4 view in one of the empty spaces. Then you're getting some of the perspective/scale, an easily read map, and all the slices.


09-23-2009, 10:16 PM
what is cartography, but a branch of art?
I consider it a division of information science.

10-03-2009, 05:22 PM
Create the flat rectangular map of the side of the cylinder. Print it on a transparency. Roll into a cylinder. Tape or otherwise attach the side so they stay a cylinder. If you want the end pieces, they'll need to be created as well, but other than greater mechanical difficulties in proper assembly, they'd work pretty much the same way.

10-10-2009, 01:24 PM
Ok read this thread a bit ago and was thinking on possible solutions.

First let me say I would only do this for an over veiw just to give every one an Idea how it looks and fits. For specific areas I would have seperate maps for detail.

The Idea is to give both a way to map and a way to give the gee-relation of living in a Cylinser.
First I used the obvious picture as a base for the designe elements

I then use paths and the path too selection to mark off my specific designe elements (three planes in perspective, with a central hub) I left the glass area blank or transparent.

After the general designe layer I chose one of the maping areas in this case the bottom plank. Selected the continuous region (in gimp use the magic wand) Make a new layer called bottom or somthing simular and fill with favorite grass collor.

Pertie much your going to have to work to get the perspective thing right

Each map section has its own serries of layers and it will allso have its own "flat" map. Bottom on bottom the upper right on the right side and the upper left on the left side leaving the top for the central hub and the deckplans if any.

After the initial picture mod you need to Scale the image the entire image gimp allows this under Image>scale Image; While doing this under the offsets keep clicking center this gets your original image in center giving spaces for margins.

After scaling created a new layer called bottommap then I went ahead and used the rectangular select tool to mark an area filled it with green

New layer filled with noise (gimp: Filters>render>Noise>solid Noise) play around with the settings and a judicious use of ctrl+z (undo) to get somthing you like. for the river make it its own layer with a pincile tool scratch out somthing you like then using the wand tool and having that layer selected copy it.

Create yet another layer paste the copied river rotate it so that it is vertical and use a perspective tool to aligne it with the perspective veiw thingy.

Map to your hearts content alternating between making the land forms on the flat then making a perspective version. For the other effects I would make layers under the map but over the back drop until you get somthing you like.

Braxton Leo
09-25-2010, 09:58 PM
My concept doesn't capture any of the 3D aspects of the cylinder design, but this is the very simple concept of the 2D map. Green areas are land, black is sky. You can play around with the dimensions.29700

10-22-2010, 01:15 AM
Maybe thinking about it from the inside would help... If you were a new arrival at the cylinder and had just downloaded a map of the facility into your Augmented Reality rig, what would it look like? It could be cut into rectangles, but rings in an exploding view are possible, Given the size of an O'Neil, the detail on the overview map only has to be enough to show major landmarks and topography...
Anyway, my two cents, I haven't tried one either. Yet. :)