Sunday, November 16, 2008

Top Ten Roller Coasters: What makes them great?

(Above photo of Boulder Dash)

Top Five Wooden Roller Coasters Bold

1. Boulder Dash
Boulder Dash is located in Bristol, CT at the Lake Compounce Park. It's built into the side of a mountain and speeds through trees making it one of the top roller coasters in the world.
2. El Toro
This coaster is located in Jackson, NJ at Six Flags Great Adventure. Riders of El Toro experience an adrenaline rush and a smooth ride.
3. Raven
Santa Claus, IN houses this ride in the Holiday World Park. This roller coaster proves that size and length aren't everything because it generates sensations of weightlessness and incredible speeds in just 90-seconds.
4. GhostRider
This ride can be found in Buena Park, CA at Knott’s Berry Farm Park. It was built by the same company that built Boulder Dash. Defying friction, GhostRider doesn't come to a stop until the brakes are applied.
5. Cyclone
Astroland in Coney Island in Brooklyn, NY is home to the Cyclone. This coaster may not have the smoothest ride of all, but it is a favorite because it is one of the originals.

(Below photo of Superman: Ride of Steel)
Top Five Steel Roller Coasters

1. Superman: Ride of Steel
Six Flags New England in Agawam, MA is home to this amazing coaster. Superman gives riders the perfect combination of great speed and airtime from the moment it leaves the station until it returns.
2. Apollo’s Chariot
This coaster is located at Busch Gardens Europe in Williamsburg, VA. This is one of the smoothest and most exhilarating roller coasters in the world.
3. The Incredible Hulk
Islands of Adventure at Universal Studios in Orlando, FL is home to this great ride. It is a roller coaster unlike any other, but it must be ridden to be believed say the experts.
4. SheiKra and Griffon
SheiKra is located in Busch Gardens Africa in Tampa, FL and Griffon in Busch Gardens Europe in Williamsburg, VA. Because they are both diving and floorless coasters they are tied for number four. They are the most unique and wildest roller coasters on the planet.
5. Nitro
Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, NJ is home to this coaster. The creators of Apollo’s Chariot also created this coaster, which is smooth and has incredible airtime.

(Photo to right of GhostRider)


Roller coaster trains do not have engines or motors. They rely on stored potential energy to give their riders an amazing experience. Slowly pulling the train up the initial hill of a roller coaster is not just a way to scare the passengers, it is a way to build up potential energy that will turn into kinetic energy on the way down. As it moves higher and higher up the potential energy is increasing. The potential energy that has been stored up on the way up can be released as kinetic energy on the way down the hill. At the top of the first hill there is maximum potential energy. Kinetic energy increases less very little potential energy at the bottom of the first hill. The second hill of the coaster is much smaller and the kinetic energy allows for the movement of the coaster up this hill. While moving up this hill potential energy is being built up. While going down the second hill the potential energy is converted back into kinetic energy to propel the car down the hill. The reason for the decrease in the height of the hills while moving along is because some of the mechanical energy is lost as thermal energy due to friction with the tracks. When entering a loop, the train has a lot of kinetic energy and very little potential energy. When it reaches the top of the loop the amount of kinetic energy is smaller than the amount of kinetic energy at the bottom of the loop. The change from potential to kinetic energy is what the roller coaster experience is all about. When the train reaches the end of the track the remaining mechanical energy is dissipated using breaks bringing the cars to a stop. All the energy is converted to heat as the brakes are applied. Energy is conserved throughout the ride but mechanical energy is lost throughout the ride because of the friction with the tracks.

(Photo to right of El Toro)

The force of gravity acts on you at all times, wherever you are on Earth. It pulls you towards the ground, but the sensation of weight is the force of the ground pushing up against our feet. Gravity plays a large role in the movement of roller coasters. If there is a hill that the coaster needs to go down gravity will pull it down and if there is a hill it needs to go up gravity will apply a downward force on the back of the car to cause deceleration. The other force that we feel is the normal force. This normal force acts on you at all times, on Earth and while riding a roller coaster. On a roller coaster you often accelerate and the magnitude of this force changes creating the feeling of weightlessness. The other force that we feel is centripetal force. When going around curves, the centripetal force is pointing towards the center of the curve and it is supplied by the side of the car that you are sitting in. Newtown's first law that says you will stay in motion explains why the car applies a force on you while on the roller coaster. The force is needed to keep you following a circular path. When we are riding at constant speed we only feel the force of gravity, but as we speed up or slow down we get pressed up against our seats or the restraining bar in front of us. Because of Newton’s first law of motion, “an object in motion tends to stay in motion,” says that we will continue to move at the same speed and direction unless another force acts on us. The force that speeds us up is the force that our seats push against our bodies and the force that slows us down is the force that our restraining bar pushes against our body. Force and gravity play a large part in the movement of roller coasters. Physics is what makes roller coasters work!

(Photo of SheiKra)

Levine, Arthur. "Best Roller Coasters." 2008. 9 Nov 2008

Harris, Tom. "How Roller Coasters Work." How Stuff Works. 2008. 9 Nov 2008
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