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The Physics of Roller Coasters



As summer approaches, people get more and more anxious to finish up with their classes and school work. They want to get out of the hot, sticky schools and get out into the sunny fresh air. I know I do! Going to amusement parks like Seabreeze or Darien Lake is a great way to pass the time and have fun too. Although you may not realize it, many of the rides there have a lot to do with physics! One of the most popular rides are roller coasters and that involves tons of physics.

First, there is a lot of potential and energy that is stored and used. There is a chain that is used to pull up the roller coaster cars to the top of the hill. This is creating the potential energy. Potential energy is energy that is waiting to be used and is currently being stored in whatever object applicable to the situation. Once the roller coaster reaches the top of the hill, the chain releases the car and all of the potential energy is turned into kinetic energy. Kinetic energy is energy that is used during the motion of something. Gravity also helps with the cars kinetic energy by pulling them towards the ground. When the car is at the very top of the hill, that is where the potential energy is at its maximum. As the kinetic energy increases (as the car goes down the hill) the speed also increases.

There is also a lot of work that is done in roller coasters. Work is the force that is used to move an object from place to place. The work that is done in this case, is when the chain pulls the car up the hill on the track. The work of bringing the car up the hill is done to overcome the force of gravity which is pulling the car towards the ground. Therefore, the more mass that the roller coaster had, the more work it takes to bring the car up the hill. As you can see, roller coasters have a lot of physics that is involved with them. So, next time you are riding one at an amusement park, you should think about all of the physics that is going on around you!

Thanks for reading :)

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