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Physics of a roller coaster



Butterflies in your stomach and adrenaline rushing through your veins, roller coasters are an extremely thrilling experience to the riders. While on them, have you ever thought about how they really work and why?

Roller coasters actually operate similarly to catapults and in some cases they actually use catapult launches. These systems operate by very quickly building kinetic energy and exerting it to the train. An example of this system is called the linear-induction motor. This system uses electromagnets to create two magnetic fields that attract. Overall it's a good system because it creates precision, control, speed, and durability.

Of course with such an efficient operating system, the train needs a good way to stop and let the passengers off. To create the maximum break efficiency, the breaks are instead built into the track instead of on the train itself. There are clamps connected to hydraulic systems, so in case of emergency the clamps tense and friction slows down the trains movements.

When actually on the ride, you are part of the energy of the whole system. The ride stores massive amounts of potential energy when ascending up the hills. At the highest point, the train has the most gravitational force possible. After the peak, the train releases the potential energy and becomes kinetic energy.


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