Roller coasters have come to be one of American’s favorite pastimes. Amusement parks are more popular than ever thanks to the exciting, fast-pace, “scream machine” rides known as roller coasters. Though many people may not know, roller coasters are entirely based upon science, from the speed of the cars to the safety of the ride. For one to understand the thrills as well as fears one experiences on a roller coaster, one must first understand the most basic component of these rides, the physics.
The very first roller coaster was built in the 1600s in Russia. These “roller coasters” were large blocks of ice that were designed as sleds, with straw or fur put on the ice for passenger seats. To slow these roller coasters down, sand was put at the end of the coaster. The first American roller coaster, a gravity switchback train, was built in 1884 on Coney Island. Originally, railway companies set up these coaster at the end of the rail line in order to attract passengers during the weekend when usage was small. In 1912, John Miller designed the first “underfriction” roller coaster, which was designed to allow the ride to have more speed, steeper hills, and less drag. When Disneyland opened in 1955, many changes to the roller coaster were instigated. These changes included steel coasters, loops, a corkscrew track, and stability (Amusement Park Physics).
One of the basic physics components of roller coasters is gravitation. Gravitation is the universal force of attraction that affects all matter (Roller Coaster Physics). Gravity is the traditional source of power for roller coaster, accelerating the cars throughout the entire ride. At the very beginning of the ride when the car is moving up the hill, the gra...
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...some say the park officials were aware of problems (Ride Accidents). These cases of roller coaster misconduct or misfortune are few and far between. In reality, roller coasters are an extremely safe and non-risk form of activity that it seems will continue to gain popularity. These thrill rides, based upon the science of physics, are sure to continue serving people as a chance for those seeking thrills to be tosses, turned, and pulled upside down for many years to come.
1. Amusement Park Physics. 1997-2005. Annenberg Media. November 2005.
2. Ride Accidents. Jarod Costanza. 1997. Ride Accidents Inc. November 2005.
3. Roller Coaster Physics. David Pescovitz. 1998-1999. Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc.
November 2005. http://search.eb.com/coasters/physics.html.
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