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Theory: Zephyr and the Upside Down Planet


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Before I describe my theory, allow me to quote a short conversation that happened in the 27th page of the legendary "Hidden Things in Map of Roshar?" thread:


I'm pretty sure I saw someone suggest that Roshar rotates in the opposite direction from Earth? (So the sun would rise in the West and set in the East). It's not true:

Shallan found herself sweating in the cold air as the sun finally vanished beneath the western horizon.

It's really hard to interpret that any way except as the sun setting in the West, like on Earth.


It's also upside-down, so that the sun still rises in the "east" and sets in the "west" ;)

If Roshar is upside-down, then it would be rotating clockwise (with regard to the sun--it'd still be rotating counter-clockwise with regard to its poles). But then the sun would still rise in the west, which it's not doing. (Unless they call "down" north? I don't know, that seems a little too far fetched.) Right? I could be visualizing this wrong. I was using a pen to try to imitate the rotation of Roshar and then figure out its orientation with regards to the sun, so I could have messed up somewhere.

I know a lot of people have mentioned this, but the rotation of the landmass is weird. If you look at a picture of a hurricane in the northern hemisphere (like Katrina), it rotates counter-clockwise. Roshar (the continent), however, also rotates counter-clockwise, despite being in the southern hemisphere. So there's something really weird going on there.

Also, I find it really strange that the highstorms are one gigantic wall (gigantic enough to cover at least half of the globe--the southern hemisphere--in one sweep) rather than being a swirling shape like a storm on Earth. I wonder what a highstorm would look like from a satellite image...


To add to Weiry's proof that the Roshar sun sets in the west, here is a quote from Way of Kings:

The sun set in the west, but the wagons kept rolling. Violet Salas peeked over the horizon to the east, seeming hesitant at first, as if making sure the sun had vanished. It was a clear night, and the stars shivered high above. Taln’s Scar—a swath of deep red stars that stood out vibrantly from the twinkling white ones—was high in the sky this season.

So, if Roshar's sun rises from the east and sets in the west, just like Earth, that should conclusively disprove the belief that Roshar rotates in the opposite direction from Earth, right?

Not quite.

You see, the etymologies of the words "east" and "west" aren't based on Earth's rotation (obviously, since Earth's rotation wasn't widely accepted as fact until about two hundred years ago). The word "east" comes from the Proto-Indo-European word for "dawn", while the word "west" comes from the Proto-Indo-European word for "evening".

So in a cultural sense, "East" is wherever the sun rises, and "West" is wherever it sets. The rotation shouldn't matter other than in a relative astronomical sense (i.e. if there are astronomical observations suggesting the rotation is different from the majority of the neighboring heavenly bodies, then "East" and "West" might be switched depending on context).

We'll get back to the East-West issue later. But now let's talk about the highstorm and its relationship with Roshar's planetary rotation. Basically, Roshar's rotation should influence the rotation of the highstorm via Coriolis effect. Since the highstorm deposits crem, which forms the Roshar continent, the shape of the continent should be based on the rotation of the highstorm. So, since the Roshar continent appears to have a shape of a counter-clockwise spiral, then the highstorm must rotate in a counter-clockwise manner.

(Yes, I'm aware of the Julia set-derived pattern that matches the Roshar continent. I took part in that hunt.)

Now, the Roshar continent is in the "southern" hemisphere of the planet (where "south" is defined by the Rosharian maps we've seen). If a storm rotates in a counter-clockwise direction in the southern hemisphere of the planet Roshar, and if the sun rises in the direction of the Unclaimed Hills and sets towards Aimia, then one of three things is true:
  • The "southern" hemisphere is actually the northern hemisphere, with the Frostlands near the equator and the Steamwater Ocean near the north pole, and the planet is rotating counter-clockwise. (Problematic.)
  • The storm is a high-pressure anticyclonic storm in the southern hemisphere of a counter-clockwise rotating planet. The Frostlands is near the south pole and the Steamwater Ocean near the equator as implied by the Isasik's Shulin's map. (Possible and non-controversial.)
  • The "southern" hemisphere is actually the northern hemisphere, with the Frostlands near the north pole and the Steamwater Ocean near the equator. The storm is an anticyclonic storm in the northern hemisphere. The planet is rotating clockwise. (Possible, but weird.)


The first option is problematic because the equator of Roshar should be the warmest part of the planet since it doesn't have an axial tilt, so the Steamwater Ocean should be nearer to the equator and the Frostlands should be nearer to one of the poles.

The second option fits the data. An anticyclonic storm is a storm that rotates contrary to the planet's rotation and forms around a high-pressure system. This could be why the great Rosharian storm is called a "highstorm". Another anticyclonic storm you may have heard about is Jupiter's Great Red Spot, which is incidentally the inspiration behind the Rosharian highstorm. The possibility of the highstorm being anticyclonic solves our problem because it allows the highstorm to move in a counter-clockwise direction, creating a continent with a counter-clockwise shape that we are looking for, while still being in the southern hemisphere.

But you should know by now that a Skaa Theory won't stop at the reasonable, neat, and boring explanation, right? :P

In another excellent science-related thread, Leiyan was able to deduce (with the help of Peter) that the three moons of Roshar--Salas, Nomon, and Mishim-- revolve once a day around Roshar in highly elliptical retrograde orbits, whose apogees are always oriented towards the sun. Now think about that a bit. Usually moons that have retrograde orbits are irregular moons that were captured by the planet instead of being formed with the planet. What are the chances that all three Roshar moons are irregular, that they all have the same orbital period, and that they all have similarly oriented retrograde orbits around Roshar?

Peter suspects that Roshar's three moons were placed there artificially (i.e. by design), because even he is weirded out by their orbits. But there is uncertainty in the way he said it, so I won't consider that a definitive WoP. Besides, I feel there's a better explanation:

What if Roshar originally rotated in the same direction as its three moons' orbit, but at some point reversed and started rotating in the opposite direction? This does sound weird, yes. But believe it or not, I got this idea from a planet in our very own solar system.

Astronomers believe that Venus' strange clockwise rotation had not always been the case. Instead, Venus started its existence rotating counter-clockwise just like almost everything else in the solar system, but this motion was reversed over billions of years because of the sun's tidal effects on Venus' thick atmosphere.

If this was also true for Roshar (or if Roshar's rotation was reversed by some other cause), then it would explain why it rotates in the opposite direction of its moons' orbit (because it changed its rotation in the past), and it would mean that the third option I listed above is correct: Roshar is currently rotating in a clockwise direction, so the Roshar continent and the highstorm are actually in the northern hemisphere, with the continent "flipped" and highstorm coming from the west ("west" from the point of view of a pre-reversal Rosharian).

The solar gravitational forces that caused the rotation reversal could have affected the moons as well, which may be why all three have their apogees towards the sun.

Now, if the planet Yolen (where the original Shards were from) rotates just like Earth in a counter-clockwise direction, then the Shards would've had the notion of "North" as being the direction to the left of someone on the equator facing the rising sun. So the Shards who moved to Roshar (and any Yolish Worldhopper migrating there) would orient themselves so that "North" is where they expect it to be given the movement of the sun, putting the continent on the "southern hemisphere". They wouldn't realize that the planet is rotating clockwise and that their orientation is therefore upside down.

Just as RShara said.

As a matter of fact, there is another clue that the rotation of Roshar is different from Earth's, but it's pretty subtle and will only be noticed by people who are familiar with Greek mythology, or people like me who enjoy looking up the origin of words. And it is in fact what lead to the title of this post.

If you look at the table of Essences (as I've done so many times, inspiring numerous crackpot theories along the way), you'll notice that Zephyr is associated with the Herald Jezerezeh, who in turn is (mistakenly) associated by many Rosharians with the Stormfather, the bringer of the highstorm. The highstorm is symbolically important to the Order of Windrunners, the Knights Radiant of Jezerezeh, the Herald of Zephyr.

Have you seen it yet? "Zephyr" is the Greek personification of the West Wind. The highstorm comes from the same direction where the sun rises, what the Rosharians call East. Why, then, are they associated with each other?!


What a mess!


For more than a year now I've been looking for a good reason to turn the Roshar map upside down and reverse its directions, as I knew a Zephyr storm ought to be coming from the West. It was almost driving me nuts, to be honest.
Good thing I rediscovered Leiyan's moon thread the other day and remembered Venus' strange rotation.


"He bears the weight of God's own divine hatred, separated from the virtues that gave it context."

-Chapter 71 epigraph, Words of Radiance



There's one last thing I'd like to show just in case you're still skeptical. Here's a tiny quote from the Book of Mormon (which Brandon presumably has read :P):

If my people shall sow filthiness they shall reap the east wind, which bringeth immediate destruction.

We know that the Shard Odium is supposed the represent the wrath of God, the aspect of Adonalsium that gives punishment. We also know that the events of WoR led to the creation of a second storm, a storm that promised destruction, summoned by the Stormform Parshendi to punish the humans. A storm of Odium.

Which direction did that new storm come from? West, as a modern-day Rosharian would think? East, as a hypothetical pre-reversal Rosharian would have thought? Based on the symbolism of the east wind, an east-originating storm would fit the ominous nature of the Everstorm better, I think.

But whatever the direction of the Everstorm may be, something was wrong.



"We must wait. The storm will blow the wrong way, after all. Or is it all other storms that have blown the wrong way, and this one will be the first to blow the right way?"

-Venli, Interlude 13, Words of Radiance

Edited by skaa
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Anyways... yet another crazy theory by skaa. I like it. I'll need to reread it a few times, but overall, I think I could see this being a thing.


I was honestly not expecting a quote from the Book of Mormon. Not that I mind or anything. Out of curiosity, are you LDS, or have you just read the Book?

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Anyways... yet another crazy theory by skaa. I like it. I'll need to reread it a few times, but overall, I think I could see this being a thing.

I was honestly not expecting a quote from the Book of Mormon. Not that I mind or anything. Out of curiosity, are you LDS, or have you just read the Book?

Thanks! Yes, please do re-read it some time. I caught some typos and inaccuracies earlier that you might have noticed, and I'm still looking for ways to improve the post.

I'm not LDS. I saw that Book of Mormon quote while reading the Wikipedia article for the East Wind as part of my research for this post. Since Brandon is LDS, I thought that was an awesome way to strengthen my theory.

Edited by skaa
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If Roshar flipped like Venus did, would it not need to be both closer to the sun and have about a 70% denser atmosphere?

Yeah it's probably relatively close to the sun. The increased solar energy input might be fueling the strange weather conditions. The highstorm and the rest of Roshar's cloud system probably supply enough cooling effects to keep the land habitable even with a hotter sun. As for the atmospheric density, we know that Roshar has far more oxygen than Earth, and with a combination of a higher concentration of high-density non-greenhouse non-toxic gases (e.g. argon), this might lead to enough atmospheric density to make the tidal-torque theory work.

(Somewhat unrelated, but I imagine that unlike Venus, Roshar should have a relatively strong internally-generated magnetic field to prevent the harmful effects of solar wind on living things.)

Honestly, I have no idea if any of this really works. I am not a physicist, just someone who enjoys playing with the ideas that other more intelligent people come up with. And I don't really mind if Brandon's fantasy worlds aren't 100% scientifically accurate. (Hint: They aren't.) It's just fun to pretend sometimes. :D

To all the Sharder physicists out there: Given the facts that we know, does the theory that Roshar has a similar motion to Venus contain any major flaw that requires Shardic shenanigans to correct? If so, are those Shardic shenanigans more complex or less complex than the shenanigans needed to make three irregular moons move the way Roshar's moons do?

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If the atmosphere is denser, it would explain how highstorms can do so much. The wind speed could be something we might see on earth, but the thicker atmosphere would have more force at that speed.

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There's a WoB or WoP out there somewhere that says [paraphrasing] "Astronomers would say that Roshar wouldn't be capable of supporting life."  It was in relation to a question about how far it is from its sun, or perhaps how old its sun is, or what color it was.  


Since he didn't bother to say why that I can recall (a quick search didn't turn anything up, and I'm too lazy to do more right now), it's kinda easy to think that it may be due to holding a Venus-like position in the system.

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