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Circular Motion

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Roller Coasters

Have you ever ridden a roller coaster? They often have numerous dips and turns and some even have loops. These turns that a rider experiences all involve circular motion and centripetal force. But how is this possible if a roller coaster rarely, if ever, moves in a perfect circle?

Centripetal force and circular motion occur instantaneously while the car is in motion. In the middle of a curve, the rider is experiencing instantaneous centripetal force as he travels along the arc of a larger circle.

License: CC BY-NC 3.0

A roller coaster puts riders through centripetal motion. [Figure1]


Creative Applications

1) How would centripetal force work differently on a hill or dip than a curve?

2) What other forces act on the roller coaster? In what ways?

3) WIthout the use of handles, bars, or seatbelts, how could riders stay in their seats when going over a loop?

Image Attributions

  1. [1]^ License: CC BY-NC 3.0

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