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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: http://www.flickr.com/photos/hmr/2575562581/
image source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/hmr/2575562581/

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. :)

:)

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    • profile image

      antonio 

      8 years ago

      me la pelas

    • Mezo profile imageAUTHOR

      Motaz 

      9 years ago from Egypt

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

    • Princessa profile image

      Wendy Iturrizaga 

      9 years ago from France

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

    • Mezo profile imageAUTHOR

      Motaz 

      9 years ago from Egypt

      lol Lissie, :)

      thanks for stopping by

    • Lissie profile image

      Elisabeth Sowerbutts 

      9 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

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