Theme park science

Theme parks are exciting places where science and entertainment go hand in hand. The many rides on offer represent examples of the many laws of physics.

Most rides in a theme park are perfect examples energy conservation and forces. The Law of Conservation of Energy state that "Energy can not be created or destroyed it can only change from one form into another" This allows for the thrilling ride of a roller coaster. The train is lifted to the tallest point on the track and then allowed to role down hill through a system of loops and tight bends. Click to see 120kb video of the roller coaster rolling down hill along the tracks.

At the highest point on the track the train has maximum gravitational potential energy. This energy is quickly converted into kinetic energy as the train falls steeply. The Tower of Terror, pictured on the left, converts kinetic energy into gravitational potential energy and back into kinetic. The cart is accelerated to 154km/hr in just a few seconds and climbs a giant tower as shown on the left. The cart climbs the tower and slows down as its kinetic energy is converted into gravitational potential.

Momentarily the cart comes to a standstill and it is at this point that all its kinetic energy has been converted into gravitational potential. Ofcourse, not all the kinetic energy is converted into gravitational potential, as some of it is transformed into heat through friction. As the cart falls it begins to pick up speed and gravitational potential energy is converted back into kinetic energy. Click to see a 120kb video of the cart.

As the cart accelerates towards the tower, passengers experience forces equivalent to 4.5 times the force of gravity. When the cart has reached its maximum height it starts to fall and all those on board experience a brief sense of weightlessness. If we define weight as the force exerted by a person or object on a supporting floor or scale then, for a brief moment, no person in the cart will have any weight. Mass of an object remains unchanged, because mass is the amount of matter present in an object.

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Weight and mass.
A person riding on the cart takes along a 1kg piece of metal which she weighs using a spring balance. Before the ride the balance reads 1kg exactly when used to weight he metal.

 How does the mass of the metal change as the cart travels up the tower? Remains unchanged. Decreases. Increases Is zero How does the weight of the metal change as the cart free falls back towards the ground? Remains unchanged. Decreases. Increases Is zero What is the weight of the metal at the highest point of the carts journey when it is momentarily motionless? 1 kg 0 kg Just a little less than 1 kg Just a little less than 1 kg What is the mass of the metal at the highest point of the carts journey when it is momentarily motionless? Remains unchanged. Decreases. Increases Is zero What is the weight of the metal as the cart travels skyward up the tower? 1 kg 0 kg Just a little less than 1 kg Just a little less than 1 kg

Energy

 All the energy of the cart, at its heighest point on the tower, is in the form of heat energy gravitational potential energy sound energy electrical energy kinetic energy As the cart falls from its maximum height, energy is converted back into heat energy gravitational potential energy sound energy electrical energy kinetic energy At the base of the tower, just before the cart starts to climb, all the energy of the cart is in the form of heat energy gravitational potential energy sound energy electrical energy kinetic energy The cart returns back to the starting position with less energy than it originally started with. This lost energy is converted into heat energy gravitational potential energy sound energy electrical energy kinetic energy