The Fundamentals of Roller Coasters

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The Fundamentals of Roller Coasters By: Maccarious Gubran Roller coasters are driven almost entirely by basic inertial and gravitational forces, which are all operated in the service of a great ride. Amusement parks keep designing faster and more complex roller coasters, but the central ideas at work remain the same. At first glance, a roller coaster is something like a train. It consists of a series of connected cars that move on tracks. But unlike a train, a roller coaster has no engine or power source of its own. For most of the ride, the train is moved by gravity and momentum. To build up this momentum, you need to get the train to the top of the first hill to give it a powerful launch. The traditional lifting mechanism is a long length of chain running up the hill under the track. The chain is fastened in a loop, which is tied around a gear at the top of the hill and another one at the bottom of the hill. The gear at the bottom of the hill is turned by a motor. This turns the chain loop so that it continually moves up the hill similar to that of a conveyer belt. The coaster cars grip onto the chain with several chain dogs. When the train rolls to the bottom of the hill, the dogs catches onto the chain links. Once the chain dog is hooked, the chain simply pulls the train to the top of the hill. At the peak, the chain dog is released and the train starts its descent down the hill. In some newer coaster designs, a catapult launch sets the train in motion. There are several sorts of catapult launches; however, they all basically do the same thing. Instead of dragging the train up a hill to build up potential energy, these systems start the train off by building up a good amount of kinetic energy in a short amount of time. One popular catapult system is the linear-induction motor. This motor uses electromagnets to build two magnetic fields (one on the track

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