Physics

Have you ever wondered how a roller coaster works? Did you ever think how much mathematics is involved with it? Discover the answer to these questions and more while reading this page about physics!

Roller coasters are one of man's finest inventions. You may think that the physics of roller coasters are complicated, but they are not at all confusing.

First of all, roller coasters have no engines so from the first drop the energy must carry you to the end of the track. At the top of the first hill the coaster has potential energy. The change of potential energy to kinetic energy is what propels the coaster to the finish.

Different wheels take the coaster through it's exciting trip. Running wheels keep the coaster on the track. Friction wheels control the movement from side to side. Another set of wheels holds the coaster on the track even though it may be inverted. Compressed air stops the coaster at the end of the wild ride.

Galileo first came up with the idea of the free fall. A free fall is something that is moving only under the influence of gravity. A free fall has three parts: the ride to the top, the lack of movement at the top, and the plunge downward. At the beginning of the ride, force is applied to the car and that force carries it to the top of the first hill. At the top of the hill the car begins to accelerate downward because of the strong force of gravity.

Some of you may ask, "What is the average speed of a roller coaster?" It is a simple math equation. To find the average speed of a coaster you divide how long you travel by the number of minutes it takes you to finish the ride.