# The Physics of Roller Coasters

1551 Words Sep 16th, 2010 7 Pages
People sometimes engage in activities and are unaware that such activity involves physics. Physics is all around. For instance, you may go to Six Flags and do not analyze how physics helps the machines you ride in operate. Have you ever asked yourself how a roller coaster works? Would roller coasters safely run without the knowledge that physics offers us? The answer is no. Roller coasters are driven by physics; it mobilizes and gives its riders amusement through forces such as inertia, gravitation, and centripetal forces and utilizes different types of energies such as potential and kinetic energy. Physics is what makes roller coasters safe and effective. It is not only the high speed of the trains of a roller coaster that makes the …show more content…
It is not a motor that is responsible for driving the roller coaster but rather the conversion of potential energy to kinetic energy. The train gets the kinetic energy necessary for the entire ride from the first steep hill it goes down. Energy can never be created or destroyed, however, it is conserved through forces like gravity, which is known as conservation of energy. Kinetic and potential energy are the two most important types of energy that a roller coaster needs to function. Kinetic energy is energy of motion, the faster an object or something moves, the more kinetic energy it possesses.
On the other hand, potential energy is defined as energy of position or stored energy. The roller coaster utilizes potential energy, which is dependent of the mass of the train and the height, when the motor lifts it up the hill and then, this transfers to kinetic energy when the roller coaster suddenly drops, gaining speed. Therefore, the sum of kinetic and potential energy forms the mechanical energy of the roller coaster, energy which is occasionally lost throughout the ride due to friction. Potential energy is transferred into kinetic energy at the beginning of the ride as the roller coaster undergoes its first descent. When the train of the roller coaster is at the peak of the hill, it possesses a lot of potential energy and much less kinetic energy because it is at a high altitude and moves slowly. Conversely, when it is at the bottom, it has a lot