Six Flags Physics

By: Zoila Slover-Roa

The Physics and Fun of Roller Coasters

In class, learning about physics might be the most boring thing to do. But did you realize that the physics is the fun of a roller coaster? Physics are the basic factors of thrill in the following Six Flags Amusement Park rides like: the Superman Tower of Power, the Gunslinger, the Aquaman Splashdown, and Little and McCollough Bashin' Bumper Cars.


The Superman Tower of Power

The Superman Tower of Power was manufactured by S & S Power, Inc. and introduced to Six Flags over Texas in 2003. Standing at 99 meters high, the Superman is known as the world's tallest drop tower. The ride's motors (unbalanced forces) take the riders to the top of the tower and the ride lingers there. This point in the ride not only has the most suspense, but it has the most potential energy as well. The riders are then dropped from this point traveling at approximately 45 mph while building up kinetic energy and the riders are strapped safely in the ride. But how are you not flying out of your seat and falling at a slower rate then the ride? Well, according to Isaac Newton's 2nd Law of motion, no matter the objects' mass, the objects will fall at the same speed. And according to Newton's 1st Law of Motion, your body's inertia wants to stay at rest in your seat instead of falling with the rest of the ride. This causes the feeling of weightlessness and for your stomach to be "left behind."

The Gunslinger

The Gunslinger has been giving it's riders the ability to fly since 1983 and hasn't failed yet according to Daniel M. who claims that riding the Gunslinger "feels like you're flying." First, he swings are at rest, meaning that they a re being acted in by balanced forces and have 100% potential energy. Now building up kinetic energy, the swings are lifted and accelerate to a constant speed of 10 mph. The swings are pulled in a circular motion, constantly changing the velocity and acceleration. The force pulling these swings in a circular path and causing you to feel like you're "flying," is a force under Newton's 1st Law, called a centripetal force. Your moving like this because the strings holding the seats are pulling your seat toward the center, and making you "fly" in motion. The centripetal force changing your constant direction is unbalanced, but if one of the strings holding you were to break, the swing's inertia will cause it to keep flying in a straight path and be applied by balanced forces until gravity pulls it it down to make it the swing fall on the hard asphalt.

Aquaman Splashdown

The Aquaman Splashdown is popular because it not only thrills the riders, but it drenches them too. Actually, this ride was originally known as "Splashwater Falls" when it was introduced in 1997 and manufactured by OD Hopkins Associated, Inc. It starts out as any regular coaster, making it's way up to the top and building up potential energy while also making you feel heavier and heavier because according to the 1st Law of Motion, your body's inertia wants to stay behind. When at the top, the ride actually makes the riders think that they are being pushed by a river current and eliminates the feeling of suspense before the big drop. After the long journey to the top, you then must come back down because Newton's 3rd Law says that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. From 50 ft, the coaster then plunges into the 250,000 gallon pool at 30 mph while gaining kinetic energy and being pulled by the unbalanced fores of gravity. At the very bottom, the coaster's force causes the water to splash up because of Newton's 3rd law and soak the rider's in the cart and the people standing on the bridge above. The ride then goes up a hill, and gains more and more potential energy as it slows to a stop.

Little and McCollough Bashin' Bumper Cars

People love bumping and hitting their friends and family to make them jolt and get pushed back in their little cars without receiving any damage. That's why Little and McCollough Bashin' Bumper Cars are so popular at Six Flags. The excited riders get strapped in each stationary car and get ready to accelerate and create kinetic energy. The rider then does whatever they can to change the velocity and acceleration as much as they can for they're on a track with no roads, and they want to knock friends or parents out of their seats. Luckily, no one is harmed on this ride because the rubber around the cars diffuses the force of the collision, but not only does the rubber provide safety, it also puts the 2nd and 3rd laws of motion into a joyful effect. According to Newton's 3rd Law, two balanced forces (cars traveling at the same speed and carrying the same mass) will cause the cars to bounce off each other and travel backwards in the same distance. However, if the forces are unbalanced, Newton's 2nd Law says that the car holding the person with less mass will travel a farther distance, and the heavier person will move less. Not only are the 2nd and 3rd law are significant to this ride, but the 1st law is too! If your car is stopped suddenly or it is hit by somebody else, your body's inertia will want to continue and cause you to jolt forward. This law is also the reason why you must wear a seat belt in a real car so you can avoid some real damage.


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  • Any images not cited are labeled for reuse.