Cincy Science: The physics of Kings Island roller coasters pits gravity against centripetal force

MASON, Ohio - Ever ask, "What is that?" Or, "Why is that?" In our "Cincy Science" feature, we talk with people who can answer those questions: The folks who do science in Cincinnati and the Tri-State.

This year Kings Island unveiled its latest thrill ride, The Banshee. Billed as the world’s longest inverted coaster, this adrenaline rush sends riders through seven inversions at a top speed of 68 miles per hour.

During the month of May, Kings Island becomes the ultimate outdoor classroom by offering its Education Days, when students can discover elements of math and science demonstrated by the various attractions in the park. 

According to Ursuline Academy physics teacher Daniel Nieman, the experience is a great resource for educators to make principles of science accessible to students.

“It really puts what you learn in the classroom into a real life setting,” he said “You could talk all day about centripetal force, but when you go out and experience it, it actually make sense.”

Q&A with Daniel Nieman

1. So what physics principles are behind roller coasters like The Beast or The Racer?

The way all roller coasters operate is that they have to do some kind of work in order to give you enough potential energy to make it through the entire ride. 

Become a WCPO Insider to read the full Q&A. Learn how roller coasters and other thrill rides actually accomplish their heart-stopping feats and how The Flight of Fear works in the opposite way to many other rides.


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