Amusement Park Physics | What are the forces behind the fun?

Amusement Park Physics | What are the forces behind the fun?

Amusement Park Physics

Have you ever wondered how amusement park rides are designed?

We all love the thrill of a roller coaster, the smash-and-crash of the bumper cars, the weightlessness of free fall and pendulum rides, and the loping gallop of the carousel.  But did you know the amount of science and engineering that go into designing one these classics?

The folks at Annenberg Learner have produced an awesome interactive learning guide to help you understand the complexities of amusement park ride design.  You can choose a flash version with a fun, Einstein-like robot as a narrator.  Or go for the classic version with nicely illustrated pages full of interesting information on your favorite rides.  Both versions go into the history and science behind the different rides’ designs complete with a roller coaster maker, a weightless water experiment and bumper car collision predictions.

This is a fun and educational interactive exhibit that’s sure to keep your children (and you) entertained.  It can be a bit much to take in for the younger ones (you might have to pause and further explain a few things) but overall it’s a great physics learning tool!

Here’s the intro:

“You’ve bought your ticket and boarded the roller coaster. Now you’re barreling down the track at 60 miles per hour, taking hairpin turns and completing death-defying loops. Your heart is in your throat and your stomach is somewhere near your shoes. The only thing separating you from total disaster is a safety harness…but are you really in danger?

The designers of the roller coaster carefully crafted this thrilling ride to be just that, but you’re actually in less danger than you think. You face a greater threat of injury playing sports or riding a bike than you do on a park ride. Amusement park rides use physics laws to simulate danger, while the rides themselves are typically very safe.

How do physics laws affect amusement park ride design? In this exhibit, you’ll have a chance to find out by designing your own roller coaster. Plan it carefully–it has to pass a safety inspection.You can also experiment with bumper car collisions.

Check the physics glossary to find out more about the terms used in this exhibit. Just click on the glossary icon wherever you see it.”

Sounds fun right?!  We promise you won’t be disappointed.  The folks at Annenberg Learner have put together a terrific bit of interactive learning for you.  So head on over to Amusement Park Physics and have a great time checking out the science behind the thrills…


Amusement Park Physics | What are the forces behind the fun?


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  1. » inspire-educate-entertainAwesome Science Resources for Kids -

    […] is a site that links to lots of other sites – we loved the Amusement Park Physics – design your own roller-coaster but be careful because if you get the science wrong… […]

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