Physics of Roller Coasters

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“A roller coaster is considered any elevated track with curves and rises, carrying passengers in open, rolling cars for entertainment” (5). Today’s roller coasters appear to be tons of tubular metal intertwined around itself, but regardless of how big, fast, or gravity defying they are, they all use the same natural force – gravity. The more twisting, turning, flipping, and the faster a roller coaster goes, the more the coaster depends on the law of physics, not mechanics, to keep it moving. There is no onboard motor on roller coasters but they can still reach speeds that exceed the limits of a car on the parkway, while completing a curve, twist, rise, or plunge. History of Roller Coasters

Modern day roller coasters are based off of the fails and successes of those created over the years and though they are more complex today, roller coasters wouldn’t exist today if it weren’t for the ones of past generations. Originating in Russia, roller coasters were as basic as they come – a simple ramp. Russia had the climate for sledding, but with flat plains and high altitudes it wasn’t necessarily possible. To solve this problem they built frozen slides where inclines didn’t naturally exist. This worked well for the Russians but other countries didn’t have such cold winters to maintain the ice on the slide. French inventors desperately wanted a slide of their own so they came up with wheels. These wheels would sit in the carved grooves of wooden ramps, which would allow for year-round fun. Eventually this Russian invented, French evolved contraption grew in popularity and proved that people craved the speed, the height, and sense of daringness that have resulted in the roller coasters of today and those that have yet to come.

The Physics of Roller Coasters
All roller coasters rely on the same physical forces to move – potential energy, kinetic energy, gravity, and momentum. Roller coasters use the power from getting to the top of the lift hill or from a powerful...
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