The Science of Roller Coasters and Save the Date – Physics Lab
The day so many students have been looking forward to has finally arrived – it’s Homeschool Day at Magic Mountain. We hope our CalPac students are having a blast playing games, enjoying their classmates’ company, and riding all of the thrill rides they can handle.
We might not think of roller coasters as particularly scientific but trust us, there is more to them than meets the eye. For example, did you know that roller coasters don’t have engines? Without an engine, how does it travel up that steep, steep, steep track? Physics!
Roller coasters are pulled up that first big hill with a motorized chain. As the chain pulls the coaster cars higher and higher, the amount of potential energy grows and grows until it reaches its maximum potential energy. What’s potential energy? It’s the amount of work the roller coaster will be able to do with the energy it builds up from falling down the other side of the hill.
So why does the roller coaster “fall” down the hill after that big climb? Gravity! Gravity turns the potential energy into kinetic energy (moving energy), and the weight of the roller coaster pulls the cars and screaming passengers down the hill. Interesting, huh?
Roller coasters are real life examples of physics in action. And did you know, you could become a roller coaster designer? If you’re interested in a career in science or engineering, you could be part of the team that designs the next big thrill ride at a local amusement park.
Want to know more about roller coasters and how they work? How Stuff Works is a great resource – check it out.
Don’t forget – our Physics Wet Lab is scheduled for December 13. Come join us for a hands-on experience, get your questions answered, and have fun with your fellow classmates.