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Roller Coaster Research
Research was performed at UC Davis attempting to learn more about the physics of roller coasters. A roller coaster simulation program, TrackMaster, was created based on the following ideas:
  • Create track that has continuous curvature throughout, so there will be no sudden changes in force.
  • Determine how to position the rails such that no lateral force will be exerted on the passenger. (This is not always an ideal design, but is a good starting point and was an assumption in the research).
If you are interested in the details of the research, you are welcome to view the thesis, "Dynamic Simulation and Analysis of Roller Coasters". You can either view the contents on-line or download a PostScript version.
In order to help others doing roller coaster research, the following list of books and articles about roller coasters is included. If you are unable to locate any of these articles, or are interested in additional articles for which all pertinent information is not known (i.e. title, magazine name, etc.) contact coasters@tigertails.com and arrangements can be made to assist you.
  • David Lindsay. Terror Bound. American Heritage, 77-89, September 1998
  • Steve Voynick. Coaster Crazy! Compressed Air, 101(8):24-29, December 1996
  • Roller coaster puts polyurethane wheels to the test. Design News, 51(16):25, August 26, 1996
  • Greg Lauzon. The Wildest Rides of '96. Family Fun, pp.66-72, August 1996
  • Christopher A. Tenaglia. Graphical Simulation of a Virtual Roller Coaster. Undergraduate Honors Thesis, The Ohio State University, February 1996
  • Darlene Roy. Coaster Construction. Science Teacher, 62(6):20-23, September 1995
  • Designing the Ultimate Thrill Machine. Mechanical Engineering, pp. 72-78, August 1995
  • Peter Reina. U.K. rolls and coasts to a new height record. ENR, 232(8):66, February 21, 1994
  • Fred Pearce. Licensed to thrill. New Scientist, 135(1836):23-24, August 29, 1992
  • Fred Pearce. Not all fun at the fair. New Scientist, 135(1836):25-29, August 29, 1992
  • Jeffrey Kluger. Ticket to Ride. Discover, 13(8):78, August 1992
  • Mr. Cyclone. New York, 25(25):21, June 22, 1992
  • Robert Spears. Perspectives on the World's Tallest Roller Coaster. Physics Teacher, 30(4):216-217, April 1992
  • Robert R. Speers. Physics and Roller Coasters--The Blue Streak at Cedar Point. American Journal of Physics, 59(6):528-533, June 1991
  • Making Fun. Omni, 13(2):42-48, November 1990
  • Curtis D. Summers. Screaming Structures. Civil Engineering, 59(11):40-43, November 1989
  • Richard Conniff. Coasters used to be scary, now they're downright weird. Smithsonian, 20(5):82-93, August 1989
  • Alfred Clark, Jr. A Primer on Roller Coaster Dynamics Part Three---Passengers Entrained. Roller Coaster!, 10(3):24-29, Summer 1989
  • Alfred Clark, Jr. A Primer on Roller Coaster Dynamics Part Two---You Can Bank on Them. Roller Coaster!, 10(1):32-37, Winter 1989
  • Alfred Clark, Jr. A Primer on Roller Coaster Dynamics Part One---Plane and Fancy. Roller Coaster!, 9(4):30-37, Fall 1988
  • Harry F. Waters. Those Roller-Coaster Thrills. Newsweek, 112(9):66, August 29, 1988
  • Barbara Darrow. The Technology of Thrills. Design News, 44(11):130-134, June 1988
  • Peter Schjeldahl. Cyclone! Harper's Magazine, 276(1657):68-70, June 1988
  • Robert Cartmell.The Incredible Scream Machine: A History of the Roller Coaster. Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1987
  • Carolyn Sumners. The Physics of Fun. Technology Review, pp. 20-27, November/December 1984
  • If you're a roller coaster fan, then you'll want to learn all about the American Coaster Enthusiasts.
  • If you live in northern California, check out the NorCal ACE site.
  • Ultimate Rollercoaster is a wonderful source of information about coasters. Want to know where the fastest roller coaster is? Or what new rides are coming out this year? This is the place to look.
  • Another great source of information, the Roller Coaster Database is not to be missed.

If you're a teacher looking for a project for your students, these may be helpful:

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