Roller Coasters

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Roller Coasters

The main energy transfers that happens as a “car” travels along the track from the start of the ride to the end.

1. The main energy transfers are between gravitational potential energy (GPE) and kinetic energy (KE), and the eventual decrease of mechanical energy as it transforms into thermal energy. Roller coasters often start as a chain and motor exercises a force on the car to lift it up to the top of a very tall hill. At this height, GPE is at its highest, as we can see through the formula: GPE = mass x gravitational field strength x height (for all physics in relation to Earth, take g to be 10 m/s2 or 10 N/kg) We can see through this formula that as the height increases, so does the GPE, which will then be converted into KE, or kinetic energy. This is the energy that takes place as the “car” is falling down the hill. This is calculated through the formula: KE = 0.5 x mass x speed

This means that the kinetic energy increases as the speed increases, and vice versa. Therefore, this means the higher the kinetic energy, the faster the “car”. We can actually be extremely specific in terms of this relationship. We know that as the mass doubles, the KE doubles, but as the speed doubles, the KE quadruples. This becomes important when analysing this formula: KE = GPE/0.5mv2 = mgh

2. A roller coaster ride is a thrilling experience which involves a wealth of physics. Part of the physics of a roller coaster is the physics of work and energy. The ride often begins as a chain and motor (or other mechanical device) exerts a force on the train of cars to lift the train to the top of a vary tall hill. Once the cars are lifted to the top of the hill, gravity takes over and the remainder of the ride is an experience in energy transformation. At the top of the hill, the cars possess a large quantity of potential energy. Potential energy - the energy of vertical position - is dependent upon the mass of the object and the height of the object. The car's...
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