Roller coasters are perhaps the most commonly known amusement park ride in the world, when someone mentions an amusement park you automatically think “roller coasters”. Basically, they are either made of wood or metal, this peculiarity determines its dynamics.
If it is made of wood it is usually non-looping, but easily makes up the excitement with its intense swaying and loud noises. Metal coasters have the ability to be larger, more looping, faster and a lot more dynamic than wooden coaster. The average roller coasters contain three set of wheels.
The first set is known as the running wheels, they are the part responsible for guiding the coaster throughout the track. The second set are the friction wheels, their function is to control lateral motion (motion to either side of the track). The final set of wheels is used to keep the coaster on the track at all times.
So now say you’re traveling down the tracks at a hundred miles per hour, all their wheels are carrying out their function and everything is fine, that’s great, but how do you stop? Since you average bicycle type breaks won’t cut it here, a more physically fit system of breaking is used.
Instead of compressing two materials together,
using friction to bring you to a stop, they use compressed air which damages
materials less and allows for a quicker and smoother stop.
Now that we know how most roller coasters start and stop, we’ll go into how other physical properties take action during the ride.
Most people that have been on a roller coaster before will tell you that as soon as you take off, you are “glued to your seat”. This occurs because of the usually extreme acceleration of the coaster. According to Newton’s first law, your body wants to stay where it is at, but since the coaster forces it forward your body can’t do anything but resist.
This resistance during acceleration is what keeps you in your seat. This relatively simple aspect is also used as a safety precaution without you knowing it. Acceleration is closely related to inertia which is also why you don’t fall off the coaster during upside down turns. It is the same thing as if you fill a bucket with water and swing it around, even when it is upside down the water remains in the bucket although nothing is holding it in.
Sometimes a coaster will decelerate or go backwards which is when you get the feeling you are going to be shot out off your seat, because now that your body is in motion it wants to stay moving even if the ride doesn’t, at this point you should be glad you are wearing any which one of the safety harnesses provided.
In general roller coasters are safe and any occurring accident (or death in very
rare cases) is due to preventable error, either by the park or by the riders. If
you follow the park rules while enjoying their rides you should be out of harms
way, even though your sure that your about to die.