The Physics of Roller Coasters

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People sometimes engage in activities and are unaware that such activity involves physics. Physics is all around. For instance, you may go to Six Flags and do not analyze how physics helps the machines you ride in operate. Have you ever asked yourself how a roller coaster works? Would roller coasters safely run without the knowledge that physics offers us? The answer is no. Roller coasters are driven by physics; it mobilizes and gives its riders amusement through forces such as inertia, gravitation, and centripetal forces and utilizes different types of energies such as potential and kinetic energy. Physics is what makes roller coasters safe and effective. It is not only the high speed of the trains of a roller coaster that makes the ride so thrilling but the acceleration of the train and the occasional feeling of weightlessness.

At various times, roller coasters, or more specifically the trains of these, undergo acceleration, which is defined as the rate of change in velocity. The change may be in speed (magnitude) or direction, or in both. Roller coasters accelerate when they speed up and make the ride faster, slow down, or change direction. It decelerates as, for example, it ascends as if going up a hill. In this case, acceleration is dependent on its mass and the other forces acting on it. It is the acceleration of roller coasters what makes the ride more thrilling and exciting. When riding in a roller coaster a person may at some point feel weightlessness because they do not feel the chair they are sitting in as the roller coaster and yourself move vertically at 9.8 m/s^2. Therefore, you encounter with Galileo and Newton’s principle of free fall, an object moving under the influence of gravity only. Newton’s laws of motion state that the sum of the forces acting on free-falling objects, gravitation and its inertia, equals to zero. Because these forces add up to zero as gravity cancels out with the object’s inertia, then the rider while riding in an...
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