Research Paper on the Physics of Roller Coasters

5 pages
1104 words
Boston College
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Research paper
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A roller coaster uses an elevated railroad tracks. The roller coaster system has tight turns, inversions, and steep slopes. The roller coasters are found in amusement parks where most people ride in open cars for fun. A system of roller coaster forms a complete circuit where the sited passengers are restrained from the motion. A number of cars are often hooked together to form a train. The roller coaster car moves back and forth to gain momentum that trigger the movement around the loop (Qibiao, 24). The potential energy at the top of the hill is important in the formation of kinetic energy that drives those powers the roller coaster down the slope. Once the kinetic energy is exhausted, the roller coaster comes to a complete stop. Some of the kinetic energy that keeps the roller coaster in motion is lost through friction and the force needed to set the roller car in motion.

Working Principles

The working principle of the roller coasters borrows much from the physics principles. The design of the roller coasters takes into consideration the principle of inertia and gravity. The force of inertia helps to hold the train in the path while moving along a winding track. The roller coaster moves up, down and around the winding track and therefore the need for the centripetal and gravitational force to sustain the cars in motion and to stop the train from rolling. The movement of the roller coasters creates a diverse feeling in riders (Wada, 45). For example, the changes in the directions of movements cause a feeling of nausea, and joy for some riders.

The rollers coasters cars move around a circular path because of the changes of the potential energy to the potential energy. As the cars move around the circular path, it experiences forces of inertia and the centrifugal force. The centrifugal force results from the resistance to the change in the direction that the object experiences (Qibiao, 23). The circular part hinders the object from moving in the straight path as the natural force warrants. The roller coaster car rider experiences the centripetal force because a certain force pushes them towards the edges of the car. Naturally, the centripetal puller the objects moving in a circular manner towards the center of the circle and exerting a force that retains the moving object in a circular manner. The roller coaster cars experience a change in the acceleration because of difference in the sizes of the loop. When the loops are wider, the car experiences less acceleration. In the entire roller coaster system, there is no destruction of energy. The circular motion of the roller coaster cars involves different forms of friction. There is a friction between the track and the car. As the roller coaster car accelerates, a lot of energy is lost through the increased friction. The roller coaster cars utilize the provisions brakes system to stop the ride.

Changes in the energy

The potential energy and the kinetic energy help bring reasonable motion in the rollers coaster. The roller Coaster car begins the movement from the highest point. At the top of the hill, the roller coaster car can roll freely without any mechanical interventions including the influence of the rider. The ascent of the first hill is necessary to help build the potential energy that is crucial for the entire movement of the roller coaster car. Often, as the movement of the roller coaster car progress the potential energy build up on the hill changes to the kinetic energy that accelerates the movements of the roller coaster in the circular path. There is logic on the first hill that the roller coaster begins the journey. Pulling the train to the highest point is one-step to building the highest level of potential energy (Hicks et al., 95). During the movement of the train up and downhill, there is an interchange between the potential and the kinetic energy. For example, as the train is descanting down the hill, there is an active conversion of the potential energy to kinetic energy. On the other hand, when the rollers caster car is climbing the next hill, the kinetic energy is converted back to potential energy thus causing a decline in the potential energy. The repeat process of the conversion of potential energy to kinetic energy is continuous throughout the entire motion of the rollers caster cars.

Gravity and force of Inertia

Inertia is a crucial force in the movement of roller coaster cars. For example, during the motion in the vertical loop, the force of inertia helps the passengers to remain in their seats. The path of roller coaster cars is circular. As a result, the velocity of the cars keeps varying depending on the position of the car in the roller coaster system. The velocities that result from inertia keep the passengers in the forward motion and help them remain sited irrespective of the direction of motion in the loop (Hicks et al., 94). In the circular motion, it is possible for the passengers to experience the weightlessness because of the equal and opposite forces operating in the car. For example, when the roller coasters car is at the top of the loop, the centrifugal force pushes the passengers to the center of the loop. However, the force of inertia creating during the circular movement helps the passenger remain sited while the movement around the circular path is in progress. At the bottom of the loop, the weightless passengers begin to feel heavy. Most of the passengers in the roller coasters need to put on safety harness to strengthen the force of inertia that keeps the passengers on their seats.

Gravitational force

Traditionally, the gravitational force pushes all objects toward the center of the earth. As roller coaster cars go down a gradient, the rider feels the pull of the gravitational force pulling the entire car. The gravitational pull makes the passengers in the roller coasters car to feel weightless. As the roller coaster car moves down the slope, the bodies in the car experience a free fall. In this case, the force of gravity enables the roller coaster car to complete the loop and a reasonable movement around the loop.

Work Cited

Qibiao, Han. "Development and Application of High Stirring Force Dynamic EMS Technology for Slab Caster in Jigang [J]." Wide and Heavy Plate 2 (2013): 007.

Wada, Masayoshi, and Kosuke Kato. "Kinematic Analysis and Simulation of a Ball-Roller Pair for the Active-Caster Robotic Drive with a Ball Transmission." International Conference on Intelligent Robotics and Applications. Springer International Publishing, 2016.

Hicks, John Stephen. "Fabricating the Track and Base Plate." Building a Roll-Off Roof or Dome Observatory. Springer New York, 2016. 93-99.

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