The emphasis in this unit of study is energy and how an understanding of the energy in a system can help us understand its motion and forces that may be acting on the system. Though there are many types of energy to study, we will restrict outselves in this course to three types of mechanical energy only. After completing this unit, you will be expected to be able to:
Describe the mechanical energy of a system and how it changes
Describe any work done on the system by external forces
Relate energy information about a system to descriptions of that system's motion and any forces acting on that system.
As an example let's look at the roller coaster at the Puyallup Fair. This is actually a famous wooden roller coaster built in 1935. Until 2003 it held the record for having the greatest angle of descent (63 degrees) of the world's wooden roller coasters. Today it still stands as 4th. It is 55 ft high with its maximum drop being 52 ft. It boasts a fastest speed of 50 mph. You should be able to:
Describe the energy of of the car as it travels along a roller coaster track.
Analyze the information about the roller coaster's top speed and decide if it is possible for a roller coaster of the size mentioned.
Use the information about the car's energy to advise the fair officials as to what spring to order to stop the cars (should they ever need to consult you).
Information about specific roller coasters can be found at the roller coaster database. Information about the Puyallup Fair's Coaster was provided by The Puyallup Fair. Information about record holding coasters can be found at Ultimate RollerCoaster.com
More Roller Coaster Links:
How Stuff Works: Roller Coasters
The Physics Classroom: Energy and Roller Coasters
Amusement Park Physics: Roller coasters and other rides