Roller Coaster Physics

Roller Coaster Physics

Length: 1485 words (4.2 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Excellent

Open Document

Essay Preview

More ↓
Undoubtedly roller coasters are the kings of amusements parks. Whether you enjoy a older, rickety wooden roller coaster with its thrill of positive and negative G's and a fairly wobbly feeling. Or, you prepher something newer, a tube steel roller coaster. A coaster that is faster, one that includes death defying speeds, hairpin turns, and of course the cr�me de la cr�me, loop de loops.

However, regardless of you personal tastes and preferences, through exploring this page you will find that all roller coasters are indeed bound by the same fundamental laws. Laws that govern everything in our daily lives, the laws of physics. While exploring this paper, please remember this simple fact:

Roller coasters are fast, they're fun, they're exciting, but above all, they're PHYSICS!

The basic physics that apply to roller coasters can be seen when we examine some of the simple thrills of roller coasters:

* The relation between Height and speed
* Positive and Negative G's
* The corkscrew
* The loop de loop

Some of you out there might be wondering, what exactly I mean that when I say that there is energy associated with roller coasters? And the answer is very simple, although roller coasters don't produce, or use energy as most people today would define it--electricity. They do posses what physicists call kinetic (or mechanical) energy, which is the energy of motion and is defined with the equation:

which is read: �Kinetic Energy equals one-half mass times velocity squared.�

However, there is another type of energy associated with roller coasters, and that is gravitational potential energy, which is simply the energy that the roller coaster has due to its position above the earth, and has the formula:
which is read: "Potential Energy equals mass times velocity times height."

Then, when we take into account the First law of thermodynamics (also called the conservation law), seen below:

The First Law Of Thermodynamics:
�Energy can be changed from one form to another, but it can not be created or destroyed.�
click here to see the source page.

So, after taking thermodynamics into account we see that at any given point during the roller coasters ride, (granted we are using a traditional roller coaster in which there are no extra chains, or engines to lift it other than the first hill, and that friction is negligible) we see that:

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"Roller Coaster Physics." 10 Dec 2019

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Roller Coaster Physics Essays

- The very first “roller coasters” were created in Russia in the 1600’s, and were nothing like the typical roller coaster that comes to mind today. People rode down steep ice slides on large sleds made from either wood or ice that were slowed with sand at the end of the ride. These sleds required skill to navigate down the slides, and accidents were frequent. A Frenchman tried to cash in on the popularity of the Russian ice slides by building one in France, but the warm climate quickly ended his attempts with ice....   [tags: physics roller coasters amusement theme park]

Research Papers
1832 words (5.2 pages)

Roller Coaster Physics Essay

- Undoubtedly roller coasters are the kings of amusements parks. Whether you enjoy a older, rickety wooden roller coaster with its thrill of positive and negative G's and a fairly wobbly feeling. Or, you prepher something newer, a tube steel roller coaster. A coaster that is faster, one that includes death defying speeds, hairpin turns, and of course the cr�me de la cr�me, loop de loops. However, regardless of you personal tastes and preferences, through exploring this page you will find that all roller coasters are indeed bound by the same fundamental laws....   [tags: physics amusement theme park]

Free Essays
1485 words (4.2 pages)

Amusement Park Physics Essay examples

- Missing formulas A new era in theme parks and roller coaster design began in 1955 when Disneyland ushered in the new era of amusement park design. Disneyland broke the mold in roller coaster design by straying from the typical norm of wooden roller coasters; thus, the steel tubular roller coaster was born. Disneyland’s Matterhorn was a steel tubular roller coaster with loops and corkscrews, which had never been seen before with the wooden coasters. In addition to the new steel tube roller coaster, the new coaster design also proved to be the most stable, allowing for wilder designs....   [tags: physics theme park roller coaster]

Free Essays
1043 words (3 pages)

Physics of Roller Coasters Essay

- Roller coasters are driven almost entirely by inertial, gravitational and centripetal forces. Amusement parks keep building faster and more complex roller coasters, but the fundamental principles at work remain the same. A roller coaster is like train. It consists of a series of connected cars that move on tracks. But unlike a passenger train, a roller coaster has no engine or power source of its own. For most of the ride, a roller coaster is moved only by the forces of inertia and gravity....   [tags: Roller Coaster Theme Park Amusement]

Research Papers
1756 words (5 pages)

Essay about The Physics of Roller Coasters

- A roller coaster is a thrill ride found in amusement and theme parks. Their history dates back to the 16th century. It all started in Russia, with long, steep wooden slides covered in ice. The idea then traveled to France. Since the warmer climate melted the ice, waxed slides were created instead, eventually adding wheels to the system. The first roller coaster in which the train was attached to the track was in France in 1817, the Russess a Belleville. The first attempt at a loop-the loop was also made in France in the 1850s....   [tags: Physics]

Free Essays
866 words (2.5 pages)

The Roller Coaster Of Roller Coasters Essay

- People sometimes say that life is like a roller coaster, well that is kind of true because just like a rolling coaster life has its ups and downs and the thrill of being high above and the fear of fall down from the top. Roller coasters can give you a feeling like no other feeling in this world. While roller coasters gives the so much to the people there are bunch of physics that is involved in the making of roller coasters. Without physics and newton’s laws it will be very hard to make roller coaster since every loop or and drop replies forces and how much energy is distributed....   [tags: Classical mechanics, Force, Energy]

Research Papers
1117 words (3.2 pages)

The World Of Roller Coasters Essay

- Did you know that almost all roller coasters only rely on Earth’s gravity to get the cars down the track. Roller coasters are centered all on physics and I will hopefully teach you some things, big or small about them today. In this essay we will be exploring the world of roller coasters. Some of the topics we will cover will range from the history, to the principles that allow the cars to continue throughout the length of the track, and the general physics surrounding roller coasters. The history of roller coasters is a really cool one if you ask me....   [tags: Roller coaster, Steel roller coaster]

Research Papers
1944 words (5.6 pages)

The Physics of Roller Coasters Essay

- The Physics of Roller Coasters The roller coaster has its beginnings in Russia where during the 1600's. People crafted sleds out of wood and built hills made of ice blocks. The hills had sand at the bottom to help slow down the sleds so they would not crash when they reached the bottom of the hill.1 Over time, the roller coaster has become more complex. They now are taller, faster and are designed out of different materials like wood and steel. Although roller coasters are fun and exciting, the questions, what allows them to twist and turn, go up and down hills at a fairly good speed....   [tags: Physics Science Research]

Research Papers
1493 words (4.3 pages)

Essay about Roller Coasters

- Roller Coasters 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....   [tags: Roller Coasters]

Research Papers
1676 words (4.8 pages)

The Anatomy of a Roller Coaster Essay

- The Anatomy of a Roller Coaster To adequately understand the relationship between physics and roller coasters, it is essential to first describe and explain the basic structure of roller coasters. In simple terms, a roller coaster is much like that of a passenger train. To explain, a roller coaster consists of a series of connected cars that move on tracks. However, unlike a train, a roller coaster has no engine, or rather a power source of its own. There are two major types of roller coasters, characterized mainly by their track structure....   [tags: Amusement Parks Rides Essays]

Research Papers
1773 words (5.1 pages)

Related Searches


Now, with a little algebra, and an initial velocity of 0, that the equation becomes:

or that:"velocity equals the square root of 2 times gravity times the difference in height"

It is because of this correlation between kinetic and potential energy which explains whey roller coasters never exceed the height of their first hill. Notice, that if a height of a hill is equal to the first hill height, hinitial-hfinal=0 and so v=0, or there is no movement, so all hills have to be smaller than the first hill. Also notice, that if the second hill is larger than hinitial-hfinal will be negative, and since we can't take the square root of a negative without using imaginary numbers, this too is not possible.

As some of you may have noticed, I simplified my explanation by cutting out friction, a common thing for physicist just concerned with explaining the topic and not practicality. However, in the real world friction is a force that is always acting opposite the direction of motion, and thus we will loose energy and velocity with distance. But friction is a force that, if we know the materials and loads acting on them, can be predicted and compensated for. But for ease and clarity, friction will be set as zero for my entire web page, but remember that it is always there and acts on the system against the direction of motion.

Another thing I have not done is clarify what my variables mean, m=mass and in the metric system is kilograms (kg), and in US customary is the slug. So for ease, from here out when mentioning a new unit, I will define it as like this:
variable=definition (metric unit; US unit).
So I would define mass this way: m=mass (kg; slug), v=velocity ((m/s); (ft/s)), g=gravitational acceleration (9.8(m/s2); 32(ft/s2)), h=height (m; ft).

It is important to note, that although you can do calculations either in US customary or in metric, you can not mix the two, so, to get f=force (ma; slug(a)), where a=acceleration(m/s², ft/s²) you can not multiply mass in kg by acceleration in ft/s².

What are G's?
One of the most popular attributes of roller coasters is their ability to, in a single ride make the rider feel as though they had doubled their weight, or oppositely, lost all weight. These feelings of either intense weightiness, or weightlessness, are referred to as G's, and are simply referring to how many times of gravity are affecting you. For example, when you go down the large hill at the beginning of a roller coaster, and you reach the bottom of the hill and start climbing the next hill you feel as though you are three times as heavy as you are. Somehow, you find a way to measure your weight at that point in time, and find that it is indeed three times larger. Then, you are experiencing a force of 3G, or three times the force of gravity.

Or if you are going over a sharp hill, you may experience yourself feeling great pressure against your restraints, and this is because of the same phenomena, and are referred to as negative G's because they are acting against gravity.

What Causes G's?
These feelings, as well as some of the other effects of a roller coaster are caused by centripetal force. Centripetal force=Fc=mac, ac=centripetal acceleration=m(v2/R), where R is the radius of the circle. So that:

Notice, that because v is squared, then if you double your speed with all other variables constant, you actually quadruple (22=4) your centripetal force. So if you originally felt 1G of force on a hill, you will now, at twice the speed experience 4G's. Similarly, if you triple the speed then you will have NINE times the force.

This raises many concerns for roller coaster engineers, because the average human body can withstand around only 5G's for only a few seconds before blacking out, a condition where either too much blood or not enough blood is circulating to the brain. For this reason, most roller coasters with grater speed have significantly larger radii on their flips and turns. But remember that if roller coaster "A" has a speed that is two times roller coaster "B", to keep the same G's "B", roller coaster "A" must have a radius 4 times that of "B".

However, centripetal force is not only a vertical thing, in fact I would wager that almost all of those reading this have themselves experienced centripetal force, regardless of whether they rode a roller coaster or not. How? Well in your car, any time you take a tight turn and feel your self being pulled to one side or the other you are experiencing centripetal force.

What is a corkscrew?
A corkscrew is a series of small consecutive circles, or clothoid circles (slightly oblong circles), that will give the rider a combined feeling of G's and disorientation.

Corkscrews are also made possible through centripetal force, because as the cart is being carried through the rotations it is being pushed outwards towards the structure. However, if there is not enough velocity to carry the passengers all the way through the corkscrew than the forces needed to keep the car pressed up against the track will not be significant enough to overcome the weight and the cart would be liable to fall if it weren't for the unique wheels that hold the cart to the track.

A loop de loop is simply a loop that the roller coaster makes. Although a loop de loop is very similar to a corkscrew, it has its own unique physics. Like I mentioned some corkscrew will have clothoid loops, but the vast majority of them are indeed circles. However, loop de loops, because of their typically superfluous height will almost always be clothoidal.

So what is so special about a clothoid?
Well, a clothoid is evident proof that designers of roller coasters must always be paying attention to the physics or their job. As I mentioned in the corkscrew section, a clothoid is a slightly oblong circle, and has a sorta tear-shape to it. But what does that do? Well, this shape makes it so that the loop has a smaller diameter at the top than it does at the bottom, and this is significant because it allows the coaster to keep moving with roughly the same acceleration while it does the loop. Remember that the centripetal acceleration is v2/R, so by decreasing R they can increase the acceleration of the cart.

Return to