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Name: Angelina
Status: student
Age: 13
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: 2000-2001


Question:
How do rollercoasters relate to Physical Science?


Replies:
Angelina,

Roller coasters are a wonderful example of showing the flow of energy. Sometimes energy is contained in the gravitational field (Gravitational Potential Energy), sometimes it is contained in the moving object (Kinetic Energy), and sometimes it goes to warming things (Thermal Energy). In a roller coaster system, the train is lifted by a motor. The energy from the electrical field in the motor flows into the mechanical energy lifting the roller coaster. This energy in turn flows into the gravitational field as the train is brought to the top of the lift hill. At the top of the lift hill, the roller coaster is released, thus allowing the for the flow of energy from the gravitational field to the kinetic energy of the train, and back into the gravitational field on the next hill. Since there is friction, air resistance, etc., some of the energy flows into thermal energy, and the track, etc. get a little warmer.

Great question!

---Nathan A. Unterman



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