How does a pendulum ride work?
Pendulum rides are usually driven by motors attached to tires in the pit of
the ride. The rate of revolution of the tires is matched to the position of
the pendulum (often a gondola or boat). If the amplitude is to be increased,
the tires spin a bit faster upon contact. If trying to stop, the tires spin
a bit slower on contact. The location of the pendulum is usually measured
by proximity sensors on the axle of the ride.
Please note that this ride is not a free pendulum. Moments of inertia need to
be carefully calculated in the analysis of this ride. Some pendulum rides
have counter balance masses that need to be part of the calculation.
There are a few pendulum or platform rides that have the propulsion motor on
the axis, but rarely are these rides freely swinging at any point in its motion.
For riders, the ride feels different depending on location. Nearest the center
of mass is tamer than on the end.
---Nathan A. Unterman
Click here to return to the Physics Archives
Update: June 2012