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A modern invention that uses the laws of motion to thrilling ends is the roller coaster, the best at ushering Newton’s Laws of Motion. Roller coasters with their twists, turns, and loops. Roller coaster designers use Newton’s laws to push people.

Newton’s first law is the Law of Inertia. This states that an object at rest stays at rest, or an object in motion stays in motion until unbalanced forces act upon it. Since an object at rest stays at rest, all roller coasters have to be pushed or pulled to get started. As the cars go uphill, they store potential energy. Roller coaster cars will gain enough energy from the lift hill to be powered through the rest of the ride. Once put into motion, they will not stop until the brakes are applied at the end of the ride.

Newton’s second law is the Law of Force and Acceleration. That law states that the acceleration of an object depends on the object’s mass and magnitude of the force acting upon it (F=ma). You feel this second law when you start going down the hills. The coaster cars and your body have mass. The gravity provides acceleration. That causes force. The track directs the force and the cars. The mass of your body and the coaster cars is constant. The amount of force changes due to changes in acceleration.

Newton’s third Law of Action-Reaction states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. This means that as you push down on the seat, the seat pushes back at you. What happens in a 2 g-force turn? Your body will experience an acceleration twice as strong as the pull of gravity. Newer roller coasters, however, can expose riders to very high g-forces. At least one death has been caused by a rider’s body reacting to the g-forces on a roller coaster.

G-forces, like all forces, are not just acting on the things we can see. They are also acting on our blood and our blood vessels they push your blood back away from your brain and toward your feet. As we use the laws of physics to create more exciting roller coasters, it will be important to keep in mind the limits of our human bodies.

Citations: Science Buddies Staff. "Roller Coaster Marbles: How Much Height to Loop the Loop?" Science Buddies. Science Buddies, 22 Oct. 2014. Fri. 24 Apr. 2017


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