ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

How a roller coaster works - roller coasters physics

Updated on August 20, 2011

How does a roller coaster work?

It's one of my favourite inventions and most propably don't know exactly how it works. The surprising fact is that roller coasters don't depend on an engine for their movement! Yes, that's right, there is no engine to push or pull you so, how a roller coaster works exactly?

To understand the mechanism by which these great thrillers work let's talk for a minute about two simple priciples in physics potential and kinetic energy.

The potential energy or the energy of posture which builds up as the roller coaster ascends the first hill. The higher the hill, the more the potential energy gained and reserved by the roller coaster.

image source:
image source:

Roller coasters physics

Once at the top of the hill, gravity pulls the cars and the kinetic energy is then converted into another form of energy which is kinetic energy. The faster the roller coster move, the more kinetic energy it has.

Then this kinetic energy pushes the cars up the next hill and start building new potential energy and so on. The same thing happens at the loops, kinetic energy helps the cars to ascend and as it ascends it gains potential energy which is changed again into kinetic energy with the next descend.

So, roller coasters depend mainly on energy conversion from one form to another. The first hill is usually the highest so it gives enough potential energy to move the cars all the way to the end as this energy is also decreased by frictions throughout the way. A roller coaster has compressed air brakes to stop it at the end of the ride. Modern roller coasters have induction motors as a launch mechanism.

All these forces affect your body and pushes it in different directions, your weight keep changing during the ride from point to point. When these forces opposing each other come to a state of balance, you feel "weightless" and this is how the thing works and why you feel (thrilled) and flying.

I hope that helped you a little to understand how a roller coaster works without having to go through physics laws. :)



    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • profile image


      11 years ago

      me la pelas

    • Mezo profile imageAUTHOR


      12 years ago from Egypt

      Princessa, thanks for the sweet comment.. you rock :)

    • Princessa profile image

      Wendy Iturrizaga 

      12 years ago from France

      Thanks for the explanation, you made it very easy to understand.

    • Mezo profile imageAUTHOR


      12 years ago from Egypt

      lol Lissie, :)

      thanks for stopping by

    • Lissie profile image

      Elisabeth Sowerbutts 

      12 years ago from New Zealand

      Nice no techie explanation- I totally understand how they work - but how do I explain to my brain that a) I won't die and b) stop my stomach throwing up LOL


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)