The Ring of Gyges Made Real

I blogged recently about the Ring of Gyges, the invisibility ring mentioned by Plato in The Republic, a ring I wrote about in my upcoming story, RippersRing72dpi“Ripper’s Ring.” Today I revisit the topic since I now own the ring.

Ring of Gyges 8Ring of Gyges 3Well, the one I own is actually a replica, or at least a conception of how the ring might look. A close acquaintance of mine made it by the technique of additive manufacturing or 3D printing.

As shown on Thingiverse, my ring was based on two versions of the Green Lantern’s ring shown here and green_lantern_ring_display_large_preview_card GLR1_preview_cardhere. Then my friend used Tinkercad and 123D to add the Gyges touches. She used a Printrbot brand printer, the Simple (Maker Edition) and PLA filament. The .stl files you need to print the ring yourself are on the Thingiverse site. She glued a machine screw and nut to fasten the pieces together and allow rotation. If you make the ring yourself, you’ll need to scale the design so it prints a ring that will fit you.

As Plato described the ring, the collet (the part of the ring that grips the stone) could rotate. The stone must have had some sort of obvious orientation, because when Gyges turned it toward himself, he disappeared; when he turned the stone 180° toward his fingertips, he reappeared.

In my story and in my 3D printed ring, the stone is in the shape of an isosceles triangle, so think of the stone as an arrow—pointed toward you makes you invisible.Ring of Gyges 7

Not quite like that. It actually looks like this:

Ring of Gyges 6

And when you rotate the stone to point the other way, you become visible again.

Ring of Gyges 5

In “Ripper’s Ring,” (which launches in less than a week on May 4th!), I describe how the ring was made and how it works. A farmer finds a meteorite, and parts of it are solid to the touch, yet invisible. Anyone who touches the invisible metal becomes invisible, too. A jeweler discovers that the invisible metal becomes visible (and returns its wearer’s visibility) when in contact with iron.

The jeweler constructs a ring of gold lined inside with the invisible metal touching the finger. The stone is a triangle of iron attached with a screw mechanism such that the wearer can rotate the triangle and move it up or down. Moving it down brings it in contact with the invisible metal, rendering the wearer visible again.

So far I haven’t gotten my Ring of Gyges to turn me invisible, though I will keep trying. Perhaps when you make yours, it will work. For your sake, I hope not. Don’t forget to get your copy of “Ripper’s Ring” and wear your own Ring of Gyges while reading it. If you make one, or have any questions, or if you think I should 3D print more objects from my other stories, leave a comment for—

Poseidon’s Scribe

The Ring of Gyges

Wouldn’t it be amazing if you could make yourself invisible at will? Do you wish you could just disappear and reappear when you wanted to? If you had the Ring of Gyges, you could.

The philosopher Plato discusses the Ring of Gyges in The Republic. He uses the ring as an allegory, similar to his use of Atlantis and his famous allegory of the cave.

In Plato’s ring allegory, Gyges is a shepherd in the country of Lydia. An earthquake uncovers the opening of a cave, which Gyges discovers while tending his flock of sheep. He goes into the cave and finds a bronze horse statue with its torso opened up. Within it is a man’s corpse with a golden ring on one of its fingers. Gyges takes the ring. He finds that if he turns the ring’s collet (the part that secures the stone in place) so its stone points toward the base of his finger, he disappears. If he turns the collet 180 degrees so the stone points to his fingertip, he reappears. He goes to the palace of Lydia, seduces the Queen, kills the King, and becomes King himself.

Why am I telling you about the Ring of Gyges? It’s because I make use of that ring in my upcoming story, RippersRing72dpi“Ripper’s Ring,” which will be launched in early May. In my story, a troubled character in East London comes across the ring in the summer of 1888, and starts killing prostitutes. He becomes the murderer we know as Jack the Ripper. Now you understand why they never caught the Ripper. When you read “Ripper’s Ring” you’ll also learn how the Ring of Gyges works, and why Gyges found it on a corpse inside a horse statue in a cave.

Some of you are thinking, “A magic ring? Hasn’t that been overdone? Does the literary world really need another magic ring?” You’re recalling Aladdin’s ring in Arabian Nights, the Ring of Solomon, J.R.R. Tolkien’s One Ring, Wagner’s Ring Cycle, the rings in C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia, and Marvolo Gaunt’s Ring in the Harry Potter books by J. K. Rowling.

Enough with the magic rings already, you’re saying. Well, my ring is different. Not only does it turn its bearer invisible, but it also provides the bearer some mental visions of all the ring’s previous owners. When my troubled character comes across the Ring of Gyges, he learns its history and what it can do.

Now back to Plato. What was that ancient Greek philosopher doing discussing a ring of invisibility? He stated that the ring separated actions from consequences; that is, an invisible man could commit an immoral act (as Gyges did by killing the King) without fear of retribution, since no one could connect him with the crime. Further, Plato believed that if a person had such a ring, his eventual commission of immoral acts was inevitable. In other words, no one can resist the temptation of invisibility and the power it conveys.

No one? Well, in The Republic, Socrates doubts the temptation is as inevitable as Plato thinks.

My scientifically minded readers are laughing at the whole idea of human invisibility. After all, the human eye only works because light interacts with the rod and cone cells in the retina at the back of the eyeball. If the eyeball is invisible, light passes through without interacting. In other words, an invisible person is also blind. You could get around that with partial invisibility, allowing only the retinas to remain opaque. It would be a bit creepy—two partial eyeballs seeming to float around, but at least you could see.

How did I resolve that problem in my story? I didn’t. Sorry. I chose the course most writers do and ignored the problem. At least I’m admitting that here.

If you come into possession of the Ring of Gyges, just keep it. Better yet, destroy it. Whatever you do, don’t bring it to—

Poseidon’s Scribe

A File Full of Ideas

If you’re a writer, do you keep an “Ideas File?”  You might have a different name for it, but I’m speaking of a single place where you store ideas for future stories.

The philosopher Socrates opposed writing anything down, whether it was a good story idea or not.  He had his reasons, but it occurs to me the world would never have heard of Socrates if his student Plato hadn’t written down much of what the great philosopher said.  Similarly, you could trust your memory to retain all the story ideas that occur to you.  Or you could type them or write them by hand and store them for later retrieval.  It seems obvious that, as writers, we’re not adherents to Socrates’ school of thought in this regard.

Ideas FileIt doesn’t matter what form your Ideas File takes, whether it’s an electronic file, a paper one, or a list on a white board.  The important attributes are that it’s available to you for storage of new ideas and for later retrieval.

The ideas you store there will likely be based on flashes of insight you get when your mind is otherwise idle; when you’re commuting, or cleaning the house, or taking a shower.  These idea sparks can also occur based on reading books, magazines, or newspapers; or from listening to radio or audiobooks; or from watching a movie or TV show.  Suzanne Collins, author of The Hunger Games trilogy, said she got the idea for the series’ first novel from the juxtaposition of two TV shows while flipping channels.

The entries in your file can be basic story ideas, plot layouts, character descriptions, images of settings, even just metaphors or clever turns of phrase.  The file can contain a combination of all of these.  The file can be organized or not; order doesn’t matter until the file gets quite large.

Your attitude toward your Ideas File is important too.  Don’t worry if the number of entries grows and grows and you never seem to be using any of the file’s ideas in your stories.  Don’t berate yourself if you look back over early ideas and they appear stupid or juvenile.  It should give you a good feeling to peruse the file from time to time, especially when you’re stuck for an idea.  That’s what it’s for.

Let’s look at things from the point of view of these ideas, the thoughts you’re putting into the file.  They each start life in your mind.  At that moment you’re enthused about them; they take on a sure-fire, best-seller glow in your mind.  You write or type the idea and put it in your folder, only because you are in the middle of another project and can’t flesh this idea into a story right now.

The idea then sits there in your file for a while, maybe years, along with other ideas.  It waits there for you to come across it again.  When you do, the idea might look worse than it did before, or the same or even better.  Sometimes the idea appears to lack something, but combining it with another idea lifts it to greatness.  Sometimes a poor idea sparks an unrelated good one, for reasons you may never understand.

As for my own Ideas File…well, there’s little point in telling you anything specific about it.  I’ve kept it for decades now and its entries span the spectrum from idiotic to pretty good.  If I described my file or its entries, I’m afraid it might cause you to construct your file in some way that doesn’t fit you.

If you’d leave a comment, I’d love to hear about whether you think such an Ideas File would be useful to you.  If you already have one, has it helped you?  While I await the deluge of comments, I’ll thumb through the files of—

                                                               Poseidon’s Scribe