Roller Coaster: The Physics Of Roller Coasters

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Roller Coaster A roller coaster ride is an exciting experience which involves a wealth of physics. Part of the physics of a roller coaster is the physics of work and energy. The ride often begins as a chain and motor (or other mechanical device) exerts a force on the train of cars to lift the train to the top of vary tall hill. Once the cars are lifted to the top of the hill, gravity takes over and the remainder of the ride is an experience in energy transformation. Each gain in height corresponds to the loss of speed as kinetic energy (due to speed) is transformed into potential energy (due to height). Each loss in height corresponds to a gain of speed as potential energy (due to height) is transformed into kinetic energy (due to speed).…show more content…
Potential energy – the energy of vertical position – is dependent upon the mass of the object and the height of the object. The car’s large quantity of potential energy is due to the fact that they are elevated to a large height above the ground. As the cars descent the first drop they lose much of this potential energy in accord with their loss of height. The cars subsequently gain kinetic energy. Kinetic energy – the energy of motion – is dependent upon the mass of the object and the speed of the object. The train of coaster cars speeds up as they lose height. Thus, their original potential energy (due to their large height) is transformed into kinetic energy (revealed by their high speeds). As the ride continues, the train of cars is continuously losing and gaining height. There are no motors used to power it during the ride. Starting from rest, it simply descends down a steep hill, and converts the (stored) gravitational potential energy into kinetic energy, by gaining…show more content…
This can be expressed mathematically as follows. Let W be the gravitational potential energy at the top of the hill. W = mgh where m is the mass of the roller coaster, and g is the acceleration due to gravity, which equals 9,8m/s2 on earth’s surface. The kinetic energy of the roller coaster is. Where v is the speed of the roller coaster. If we assume no friction losses, then energy is conserved. Therefore, W = KE Thus, Mass cancels out, and Another important aspect of roller coaster physics is the acceleration the riders experience. The main type of acceleration on a roller coaster iscentripetal acceleration. This type of acceleration can produce strong g-forces, which can either push you into your seat or make you feel like you’re going to fly out of it. This result is nice because it allows us to approximate the speed of the roller coaster knowing only the vertical height h that it fell (on any part of the track). Of course, due to friction losses the speed will be a bit less than this, but it is very useful

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