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Physics of Roller Coasters



Unfortunately, this is not the season for roller coasters. The winter months are no time for the enjoyable, adrenaline causing fun of amusement park rides. However, that doesn’t stop roller coasters from having heaps to do with physics. Most obviously they has to do with potential and kinetic energy. For example, when at the top of a hill the roller coaster and everyone in it have potential energy due to gravity. To find it you would have to multiply the total mass (the mass of the coaster vehicle and all of the people in it combined) by the acceleration due to gravity (which is always 9.81 m?s^2) and then by the height of the particular hill. And then when the sled starts to go down the hill, the potential energy is converted to kinetic energy. So to find that you use the equation KE=1/2mv^2. In this equation, m is the total mass and v is the velocity. So now maybe by the time we can ride coasters again we can really appreciate them.


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