The physics of roller coasters

By Alex Tully

The types of energy in a roller coaster:

  • Potential energy
  • Kinetic energy
  • Mechanical energy
  • Electric energy

How the energy changes in the roller coaster:

If the type of roller coaster had one big hill and 2 smaller hills then the energy would change like this:

The electrical energy flowing throughout the roller coaster to make it work, will turn into mechanical energy because when the chains pull the cart up it creates mechanical energy. The potential energy will be greatest at the first big hill when it is at the very top. Potential energy will transform into kinetic energy as it goes down the big hill. At the end of the big hill in at the bottom the kinetic energy will be highest. Whenever the roller coaster cart reaches the tracks at the top of the two smaller hills the potential energy is greatest. When the cart reaches the tracks near the bottom of each hills the kinetic energy is the biggest.

Why the changes in energy are important:

The changes in the coaster are important because if for example on a roller coaster the energy just stayed at potential the whole time it would not be a very fun roller coaster. Changes in the roller coaster are important because if the roller coaster did not have changes in it, it would be boring and unsafe.

Comparing and Contrasting wooden and steel coasters:

Safety behind roller coasters:

  • Brakes: These are used to slow down or stop the roller coaster from moving. This makes the roller coaster safe because they stop the track in case it needs to be stopped or if there is an emergency.
  • Wheels: These are used to help keep the cart on track. Wheels prevent the coaster from jumping off the track, they are like the glue between the track and the cart.
  • Restraints: This helps keep the passenger in the cart, its like a seat belt. This restrains the passenger from falling out of the cart.
  • Computer controls: People who work on the computers regulate and inspect the roller coasters to keep a watchful eye on everything to make sure its safe. This will help ensure that everything is safe.