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The Physics of Amusement Parks

Amusement parks are places that not just attract kids but also adults. The rides are built on the basis of Physics. So, we can say that amusement parks are not just thrilling for their rides but for they also act as a huge Physics classroom. Most of the rides are based on the laws of Physics. For example, the carousel is based on the centripetal force, the bumper cars are based on the Newton’s laws of motion, roller coasters are designed on the basis of Newton’s second law of motion and the free falls include the concepts of potential and kinetic energy and the effect of gravity.

In this article, we shall learn about two rides that are bumper cars and roller coasters rides and how they are designed based on the laws of physics.

Bumper Cars

The working of bumper cars is based on Newton’s third law. According to Newton’s third law, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Also, the main objective of the bumper cars is to hit as many cars as possible without getting hit by the other cars. So when one car hits the other, an equal and opposite amount of reaction is experienced by the first car. 

The bumper cars are designed in such a way that when the cars collide with each other, the impact of the collision is prolonged and the force of the collision gets diffused. We know that bumper cars are run on electricity and here the electrical energy gets converted into kinetic energy and some of this energy gets converted into heat. When the cars collide, the drivers experience a change in their direction and continue to experience the change in direction while they are moving. The mass of the driver also impacts the effect of a collision. Therefore, we can say that three factors are responsible for the collision of bumper cars:

  • The mass of the drivers
  • The type of collision
  • The velocity of the cars

Roller Coaster Rides

The fun part of the roller coaster rides is when we get to hang upside-down while traveling in circles which make vertical loops. It must be interesting to know that the loops in the modern amusement parks are not perfectly circular but they appear to have an upside-down teardrop. This point is known as a clothoid loop. The design of a clothoid loop is such that the radius of curvature at the bottom is larger than the sides of the loop and the radius at the top is smaller. The reason why vertical loops are no longer circular is that they are not safe. When the loop used to circular, an unusual and unsafe amount of force was experienced by the people at the bottom and controlling the velocity also was difficult. If the velocity was too small, then the cars would not move in circles. 

The main advantage of having a clothoid loop over a circular loop is that the initial velocity required is very less which means that the force experienced by the people at the bottom is less. The design of such loops is based on Newton’s second law, wherein the minimum speed is dependent on the radius of the loop.

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