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"Science fiction is really sociological studies of the future, things that the writer believes are going to happen by putting two and two together."
- Ray Bradbury

Osmosis Generator (Cziltang Brone)  
  A device that can render a solid permeable to matter.  

What is the most fail-safe design for an air-lock?

There weren't any airlocks! Instead, there was the cziltang brone. This machine projected a field which caused the structure of the Ringworld floor, and hence of the rim wall, to become permeable to matter. There was some resistance. While the cziltang brone was going-

"Osmosis generator," Louis suggested.

-air would leak through, but slowly, while the osmosis generator was going. Men could push through in pressure suits, moving as against a steady wind...

The osmosis generators were a fail-safe device. When an airlock fails, a veritable hurricane of breathing-air can be lost. But if the cziltang brone broke down, the worst that could happen would be that the airlock would be closed to space - and incidentally to returning spacemen.

From Ringworld, by Larry Niven.
Published by Ballantine in 1970
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