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The physics involved with a rollercoaster.

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Introduction As part of my physics investigation into the physics involved with a rollercoaster I was given the privilege to see some live rollercoaster's at work in Thorpe Park. Although at the end I chose a ride which was not a strictly a rollercoaster; however it did have some key aspects and physics of a normal rollercoaster. I decided to investigate two rides; these were the 'Detonator' and the 'Tidal wave'. Out of the two I decided to base my investigation on the 'Tidal wave'. This ride had more key aspects of physics involved and seemed more plausible for such an investigation in order to gain a stimulus, development and a detailed/analysed conclusion and evaluation. The physics principles of roller coasters haven't changed much since the original roller coasters. "Most coaster physics comes from Isaac Newton's law of motion. Roller-coaster designs rely on the acceleration caused by forces to make a roller coaster ride both thrilling and safe." (According to the Hyper coaster) The most important factor in designing roller coasters is how to balance out these forces. For example, a large up-force may cause you to faint because your heart can not pump enough blood to your head so balancing the forces is key. Roller-coasters are a small car lifted or driven to the highest point of the track. When set free it starts rolling down under the force of gravity, and then goes up and down along a fantastically curved line, giving the occupants a thrill by the sudden changes in velocity. To design a good and safe roller coaster requires a lot of physics principles, such as acceleration (the rate of change in speed or direction), velocity (ratio of change in position to time interval of which change takes place), free fall (the acceleration =9.8m/s/s), projectile (motion of objects given initial velocity that then move only under force of gravity), mass (the amount of material an object contains), gravitation (the force of attraction that every object in the universe has ...read more.


Gravitational Energy Gravity forces accumulate only when the coaster is climbing. As it speeds downhill, the pull of gravity is actually reduced, producing "negative gravity," or a feeling of weightlessness. Weight is the pull of gravity. Typical weight units are pounds(British system) and Newton's(metric system). On the earth, neglecting air resistance and other forces, all objects will speed up at a rate of 9.8m/s every second they fall. That is a speed increase of about 22mph every second it falls. "Many amusement park rides generate the weightless sensation by acceleration down at 22mph every second." (According to Weightlessness) "On a roller coaster we go no lower than 0.2 g . This is enough to give people the thrill of being airborne but, in a worst-case scenario, keeps them in the car if the laps bars or seat belts fail." said Summers. (According to Ticket to Ride, p.79) Any time an object experiences an external force equal to the force of gravity, it is said to be in a "one g" environment. If a car whose weight on the Earth is 100lb was moved to a 2g environment it experiences 200 lbs of external force. In a 9g environment its Fext = 900lbs, so in a 0.2g environment then its Fext = 20lbs. When the car at the bottom of the loop the gravity force is smaller than the normal force, this cause a feel in 2g environment. When the car at the top of the loop, both gravity force and normal force are downward and the normal force is smaller than the gravity force, so this cause a feel of weightlessness. (see diagram below) However, no matter what happens to its external forces of the car's mass would never change. Mass is unaffected by the pull of gravity. One of the biggest thrills on a roller coaster is the free fall when the rider experiences while travelling over a hill. ...read more.


This is Galileo's law of inertia!!! Tidal Wave - how does the ride stop? The ride is forced to stop using a braking system and the water at the bottom is also used as a stopping force. For the first few metres the ride speeds up, but for the remainder of its travel through the water it has a steady speed due the drag of the water. However, before this can happen the braking system needs to come into effect. To break the force of the engine must be equal to the force of air resistance which tends to slow the car down. These two horizontal forces are balanced, just as the two vertical forces (weight and contact force) are balanced. Future developments: The Tidal Wave as a ride is thrillingly satisfying and this is only due to the great height and acceleration. This is in turn provides the rider with a great feeling of weightlessness. However if the owners of the ride want to improve this, they should ensure that the Tidal Wave has more hills and slopes to make the ride more thrilling and worthwhile because at the moment the ride has one slope and the feeling of weightlessness is very short and at the end of the ride the rider expects to be very, very wet! However I cannot suggest anymore improvements because the ride is a 'log' ride and only needs slopes and hills to generate a greater kinetic energy and increase acceleration. One problem that could arise is a safety problem. The train has no seatbelts or a safety function to make sure the rider will stay put in the train, therefore I suggest that they add waist bands to the carriage to prevent young children with smaller mass from actually falling out. Although this has not happened, and the engineers have carefully calculated out the physic involved in preventing this, but I think this would be a safer thing to do. It will also generate some physiological safety, juts like rollercoaster's with shoulder pads. ...read more.

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