The Science of Roller Coasters

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What’s it all about?

Who invented the first roller coaster and why did they think it was a good idea?

Nowadays no visit to a theme park would be complete without a ride on a roller coaster. Since the first “Scenic Gravity Railroad” in 1827, hundreds have been built all over the world, ranging from old-style wooden coasters to high tech steel coasters that can reach speeds of up to 240km/hr.

The design of each must carefully consider the physics of motion, the physiological effects of acceleration on the human body, and the psychology of fear and excitement. This is a class about roller coaster designers and calculations they use to build them.

What will we cover?

In this class we will look at some of the mathematical issues involved in track design, and also explore the history of rollercoasters, the current record-breakers, and also some of the disasters that have occurred over the years.

Who will be teaching?

Michael Patterson graduated from the University of Melbourne with Mechanical Engineering and Science degrees. He is also a published composer, and has had works performed by the Melbourne, Adelaide and Queensland Symphony Orchestras. Also, he can juggle.