Physics of Rollercoasters

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There is a click, and the car you are sitting in is jerked. The chains that are cranking the car forward continue to make click click sounds and you find yourself counting them as seconds. Your heart begins to beat hard, and you hold your breath in anticipation as the car finally begins to transcend the first hill.

Suddenly, you find yourself throwing your arms in the air to feel the air brush passed your face. Screams of terror and delight pierce through the air as you and your fellow passengers bank around the first curve and enter the first loop-de-loop. This is one possible experience a person can feel once they enter the realm of roller coasters.

So, exactly how did this thrill-seeking amusement park ride develop? How does physics make it seem more dangerous than biking down the street? These questions as well as others can be answered in the pages contained on this site.

Originally, roller coasters were developed in Russia during the 15th century. It consisted of people walking up an ice-covered hill, only to sit down on what was known as an ice-block sled and fly back down the hill. These contraptions, though rickety and quite dangerous at the time, began to appear all over in Russia. Their popularity increased, spreading to various countries in Europe before finally reaching the United States.

The Mauch Chunk Railway was the first built in America. However, it was not originally intended to be a thrill ride. Instead it was used for easier transportation of coal downhill. Then, someone gained the bright idea to use it as a ride. So by day, the Mauch Chunk Railway was used for work, and by night for fun.

For the next few years, roller coasters held the imagination. Most were built out of wood, and would have several hills, the force of gravity completing the ride. When the Great Depression began to ravage the land, roller coasters took a side seat though. Several were even taken down do to the bankruptcy of the parks.

It was not until the late 1950s, when roller coasters came back with a completely new style. Walt Disney helped revolutionize the design by going from wooden to steel coasters. The first one, which appeared in Disneyland, was a simple bob-style Matterhorn, designed by Ed Morgan and Karl Bacon of the Arrow Development Company.

With this new way of making roller coasters, more designs and ideas came to the surface.

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