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Name: Noah
Status: student
Grade: 9-12
Location: OH
Country: USA
Date: Fall 2012

How should turns be banked in a roller coaster to best utilize kinetic energy and normal forces?

Hi Noah,

The angle of banking on a roller coaster has no effect at all on the coaster's speed, and therefore no effect on its kinetic energy.

Banking only affects the comfort of the passenger. The ideal banking angle is that where the outward vector due to centripetal force, is exactly balanced by the downward vector due to gravity. This can be tested by having a passenger hold a plumb bob. The ideal banking angle will result in the plumb bob being at an exact 90 degree angle with respect to the floor of the coaster. In this situation, the rider will not feel any side force.

Regards, Bob Wilson

Hi Noah,

Thanks for the question. This is a common question in physics. I would recommend looking up (in your physics book) the example of what angle of banking is necessary for a car to not slide on the embankment. This will help answer your question. Briefly, one wants to use the normal force to "prop up" the car to prevent it from sliding down the embankment.

Thanks Jeff

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