Physics of Roller Coasters

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Antônia C. Physics HL

Aspects of Physics
Case Study: Amusement Parks
On the 26th of February, 2011 our class went on a field trip in order to analyse the aspects of physics present in amusement parks. I chose two aspects based on my favourite rides: ‘Kaboom’ (which works based on free-fall) and the roller coaster.

 The Physics of Roller Coasters
How does a Roller Coaster work? Roller coasters have no engines (although many still tend to think they do) and are thus not propelled around the track by a motor. The transfer of potential energy to kinetic energy is what steers the roller coaster, and all of the kinetic energy required for the ride is present once the coaster goes down the first ‘hill’. Laws of Gravitation Gravitational energy takes place due to the gravitational force by which matter attracts other matter. As the coaster is pulled up the first ‘peak’ of the coaster, the gravitational energy increases. When the coaster Montezum Roller Coaster reaches the backside of the hill, the gravitational force is what causes it to accelerate. A great part of the roller coaster's gravitational energy is converted to kinetic energy on the backside of the first ‘peak’. As the coaster goes up the second ‘peak’, its kinetic energy is converted back into gravitational energy. Since the roller coaster's kinetic energy at the end of its first ‘peak’ is less than its gravitational energy at the beginning of this same ‘peak’, the second ‘crest’ is shorter than the first. If the second ‘hill’ were as tall as the first one, the coaster would stop before getting to the top of the second ‘peak’ and would thus start moving in reverse. Every hill in the track must be smaller than the previous one, except if the coaster is pulled once again (as it was when going up the first ‘peak’). Centripetal Forces On a looping coaster, the general rules of centripetal force are applicable since the ‘train’ is turning at every point during the loop. The force that makes it possible...
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