Swing Rides

Description:

The ride looks somewhat like figure 1, however in place of planes are chairs. As the ride increases in speed the chairs become almost parallel to the ground.

Figure 1

Courtesy of World Wide Guide

The swings helps us understand another aspect of centripetal force. The path that inertia wants you to move in is actually tangential to the circular path of the ride. Let's look at the figure 2.

Figure 2

The blue circle is the path of the swing.
The green line is the string that links the chair to the pole.
The purple dot is the chair and rider.

When the ride is at full speed it will look something like figure 2 from a bird's eye view. The black arrow represents the direction of the centripetal force. If the ride was spinning counter clockwise and the string broke (oh dear) the rider and chair would fly in the direction of the pink arrow NOT the red one. (See figure 3) It turns out that the direction the object flys is tangential to the point where the object was let go.

Figure 3

Try this: Tie a piece of string onto a can (or any object that's not too light). Hold the string and swing it above your head (like a cowboy with a lasso! =)). When the can is in front of you let go (be careful that nothing is in your way!!). Where does the can end up? In front of you? To the side of you?