This section provides an extensive annotated bibliography of resources related to Amusement Park Physics.

Table of Contents

Articles: Physics Education in Amusement Parks

Amusement Park Physics Handbook, American Association of Physics Teachers, New York, 1991, Carole Escobar, ed. Available for ~$20 through APPT: 5112 Berwyn Rd., College Park, MD 20740-4100, (301) 345-4200.

Escobar, Carole, "Amusement Park Physics," The Physics Teacher, Volume 28, Number 7, Oct. 1990, pp. 446-454.

Escobar, Carole, Harold Lefcourt, Virginia Moore and Barbara Wolff-Reichert, Six Flags Great Adventure Education Series: Physics, 1991.

Exploratorium Quarterly, Vol. II, Number 1, Summer 1987, (entire issue).

Kautz, R. L. and Bret M. Huggard, "Chaos at the Amusement Park: Dynamics of the Tilt-A-Whirl," American Journal of Physics, Vol. 62, Jan. 1994, pp. 59-66; Science News, Vol. 145, 1994, p. 142.

Kuczma, Philip A., "Physics of an Amusement Park," The Science Teacher, May 1977, pp. 2024.

McGehee, John, "Physics Students' Day at Six Flags/Magic Mountain," The Physics Teacher, Vol. 26, Number 1, Jan. 1988, pp. 12-17.

Natale, Kim, "Final Exam in an Amusement Park," The Physics Teacher, Vol. 23, Number 4, Oct. 1985, p. 228.

Palffy-Muhora, Peter, "Problem: Acceleration During Bungee-cord Jumping," American Journal of Physics, Vol. 61, 1993, pp. 379-381.

Roeder, John L., "Physics and the Amusement Park," The Physics Teacher, Vol. 13, Number 6, Sept. 1975, pp. 327-332.

A Study Guide to Lagoon Amusement Park, 1989.

Sumners, Carolyn, "Falling Up: A Conceptual Introduction to Inertia and Centripetal Force," Science Activities, Vol. 22, Number 1, Feb./Mar. 1985, pp. 90-11.

Sumners, Carolyn, Terry Contant and Codrej Sethna, "Ride-on Physics," The Science Teacher, Oct. 1984, pp. 36-40.

Taylor, George, Joseph Page, Murray Bently and Diana Lossner, "A Physics Laboratory at Six Flags Over Georgia," The Physics Teacher, Vol. 22, Number 6, Sept. 1984, pp. 361-367.

Taylor, Richard, David Huston, Wesly Karwiec, Jhone Ebert and Robert Rubinstein, "Computer Physics on the Playground," The Physics Teacher, Vol. 33, Sept. 1995, p. 332-337.

Unterman, Nathan A., Amusement Park Physics: A Teacher's Guide (J. Weston Welch, Portland, ME, 1990). Available from publisher: P.O. Box 658, Portland, ME 04104-0658. (800) 341-6094 (for ~ $20) Also, available on

Wiese, James, "Physics Day 1991: Mechanics of Motion" (Surrey School District #36, Vancouver, B.C., 1991).

Wilkinson, Philip. "Super Structures." DK Publishing Company. 1996. pg. 30-31.

Wolf, A. and T. Bessoir, "Diagnosing Chaos in the Space Circle," Physica D, Vol 50, 1991, pp. 239-258.

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Articles: Roller Coaster Physics

Blaszczak, Dale, "The Roller Coaster Experiment," American Journal of Physics, Vol. 59, March 1991, p. 283-285.

Cartmell, R., "Roller Coaster, King of the Park," Smithsonian, Vol. 8, Number 5, August 1977, pp. 44-49.

Clark, Alfred, Jr., "A primer on roller coaster dynamics Pt. I--Plane and fancy," Roller Coaster Mag. IX, 30-37 (1988); "A primer on roller coaster dynamics Pt. II-- you can bank on them," Roller Coaster Mag. X, 32-37 (1988); and "A primer on roller coaster dynamics, Pt. III - Passengers entrained," Roller Coaster Mag. X, 24-29 (1989)

Conniff, Richard, "Coasters used to be scary, now they're downright weird," Smithsonian, Vol. 20, Number 5, August 1989, pp. 82-93.

Eckow, Dennis, "Disney World, 15 Years of Magic," Popular Mechanics, Nov. 1986, pp. 67-70.

Nelson, Robin, "Terror on Wheels, by Design," Popular Mechanics, Vol. 154, August 1980, pp. 70-73.

Plimpton, George, "American Thrills," Popular Mechanics, May, 1989, pp. 39-46.

Smith, Marguerite, "Mystery Trains, MONEY, Vol. 18, Number 8, August 1989, pp. 53-61.

Speers, Robert R. "Physics and Roller Coasters - The Blue Streak at Cedar Point," American Journal of Physics, Vol. 59, Number 6, June 1991, pp. 528-533.

Sumners, Carolyn and Howard L. Jones, "Roller Coaster Science," Science and Children, Vol. 21, Number 2, Oct. 1983, pp. 12-14.

Walker, Jearl, "The Amateur Scientist: Thinking about physics while scared to death on a falling roller coaster," Scientific American, Vol. 249, Number 4, Oct. 1983, pp. 162-169.

Walker, Jearl, "Roll 'em," Science World, Vol. 45, Number 15, April 7, 1989, pp. 17-19.

Wiese, James, Roller Coaster Science (Wiley, New York, 1994). Available at bookstores for ~ $14.

Wolff, Barbara, "Studying Physics on a Roller Coaster," 1990 Science Year, The World Book Annual Science Supplement, 1989, pp. 300-301.

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Articles: Playground Physics

Ann-Marie Pendrill and Henrik Rodjegard, "a rollercoaster viewed through motion tracker data, 'Physics Education, 40 (6) 522-526 (2005).

Ann-Marie Pendrill, "Rollercoast loop shapes, 'Physics Education, 40 (6) 527-533 (2005).

Ann-Marie Pendrill and Gayr Williams, "Swings and slides, 'Physics Education, 40 (6) 527-533 (2005)

Stephen Van Hook, Adam Lark, Jeff Hodges, Eric Celebrezze, and Lindsey Channels, "Playground Physics: Determining the Moment of Inertia of a Merry-Go-Round," The Physics Teacher, 45 (2), pp. 85-87, February 2007

"Everyday Science Experiments at the Playground" (Daniel Hartzog, PowerKids Press) Written for ages 4-8.

"Playground Physics" (Bob De Weese and Gary Shipman, Evan-Moor Educational Publishers) "Recess may never be the same, once you and your students start making and using simple machines on the school playground. This award-winning volume shows them how to use readily available objects to make inclined planes, levers, pulleys and gears."

"Playground Physics" (Compiled by the editors of "This book shows you how to do eye-opening science activities using 'simple stuff- that is readily available on the playground. Children will enjoy the hands-on activities, while they learn many principle of physics." For grades 3-6. -Family

"Playground Science" (Thomas F. Sheehan, Rourke Publishing)

Pasco Amusement Park Physics Resource Kit

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Articles: Measeurements on Rides

Brueningsen, Chris and William Bower, "Using the Graphing Calculator in Two-Dimensional Motion,"The Physics Teacher, Vol. 33, May 1995, p. 314-316.

Stowe, Lawrence, "Using the Graphing Calculator in Collision Problems," The Physics Teacher, Vol. 33, May 1995, p. 318-319.

Stump, Daniel, "Using the Graphing Calculator in Sample Physics Problems," The Physics Teacher, Vol. 33, May 1995, p. 317-318.

Taylor, Richard, "Using the Graphing Calculator in Physics Lab," The Physics Teacher, Vol. 33, May 1995, p. 312-313.

Taylor, Richard, David Huston, Wesly Krawiec, Jhone Ebert, Robert Rubinstein, "Computer Physics on the Playground," The Physics Teacher, Vol. 33, Sept. 1995, p. 332-337.

Charles Reno and Robert R. Speers, "Accelerometer Measurements in the Amusement Park," The Physics Teacher, 33, 382-4, (1995).

Pasco Amusement Park Physics Resource Kit

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Articles: Using Video Digitizing

Graney, C. M. and V. A. DiNoto, "Digitized Video Images as a Tool in the Physics Lab," The Physics Teacher, Vol. 33, Oct. 1995, p. 460-463.

Molnar, Michael, "Creating Video Clips for Instruction," The Physics Teacher, Vol. 33, March 1995, p. 158-159.

Amusement Park Physics: Digitized Video Collection. (Link Broken)

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Videos about Amusement Park Physics:

Perceptual Physics at Cedar Point, Robert Spears, Assoc. Professor, Firelands College BTGSU, Huron, OH 44839. Some film clips from specific rides at Cedar Point Amusement Park. Many rides are similar to those at Lagoon. (You may now view this video directly from our website; click here.)

The Science Connection, Amusing Physics, by Joseph DePuglio, Steinert HS, Trenton, NJ. Videos of Great Adventure Rides, Laboratory Exercises, Problem Sets. Available for $29.95 from Dr. Thomas Ebeling, Dept. of Curric and Inst., Hamilton Township Public Schools, Hamilton Square, NJ 08690. Checks to Hamilton Township Board of Education.

Roller Coaster Thrills, Wood Knapp Video, 5900 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90036. Experience the thrill of riding nine twisting, turning roller coasters without leaving the classroom. (You may now view this video directly from our website; click here.)

World's Greatest Roller Coaster Thrills in 3D, America's Greatest Roller Coaster Thrills in 3D, available from Wood Knapp Video, 5900 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90036.

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Software Sources

Disney Software, P.O. Box 690, Buffalo, NY 14207-0690, Tel. 1 (800) 688-1520. Makers of "Coaster" software, for modeling and building roller coasters on the computer.

MathSoft, 101 Main Street, Cambridge MA 02142, Tel. 1 (800) MATHCAD. Makers of MathCAD software, a versatile and powerful math program. This can be used to mathematically model rides and analyze data, for example.

Physics Academic Software, North Carolina State University, Box 8202, Dept. of Physics, Raleigh, NC 27695-8202, Tel. 1 (800) 955-8275. Source of many different physics application programs, as well as video logging software.

Texas Instruments, contact 1 (800) TI CARES (842-2737) for local distributor, such as Vernier Software. Makers of the TI-85 graphing calculator, and the CBL data logger, which allow easy and portable data collection. Very useful for making accurate measurement outside the classroom in the playground or in the amusement park.

Vernier Software, 8565 S.W. Beaverton-Hillsdale Hwy., Portland OR, 97225-2429, Tel. 1 (503) 297-2429. Distributor of the Texas Instrument graphing calculator, and CBL system, as well as manufacturer of many CBL compatible sensors, such as a microphone, accelerometer, pressure sensors, and temperature sensors. Other software and equipment available.
Visit their site: Vernier - Data Collection at the Amusement Park

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TV Clips about Amusement Park Physics:

3-2-1-Contact Programs: Space Monday (#301), and Measurement Friday (#310) Check with local PBS for airing dates.

Scientific American Frontiers - The World of Science: PBS, 8:00 p.m. October 10, 1990.

National Geographic Explorer - Physics of Roller Coasters, 1991. (You may now view this video directly from our website; click here.)

Evening Magazine, Roller Coaster Physics, An excellent short segment on an Amusement Park Physics activity at a park near San Francisco. (You may now view this video directly from our website; click here.)

Scientific American: Frontiers in Science, "The Physics of Roller Coasters," A nice presentation on the design and physical principles of roller coasters. Presents highlights of a new roller coaster built by Arrow Dynamics of Clearfield, UT.

The New Explorers: Rock-n-Roll Physics, An excellent spot on two high school physics teachers who do it right; Newton's Laws, Amusement Park Physics, and more.

DISCOVERY CHANNEL - Thrills, Chills, & Spills

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Equipment Sources:

Arbor Scientific, P.O. Box 2750, Ann Arbor, MI 48106-2750. Tel. (800) 367-6695. Source of Night Spectra Quest diffraction cards, World-in-Motion Physics Video Analysis Software, as well as other physics demo equipment.

Bandai America, Inc., 12951 E. 166th Street, Cerritos, CA 90701. Spacewarp Set 30, Advanced Coaster. A model coaster kit made from plastic tubes, with automatic coaster start mechanism for continuous display.

Edmund Scientific, 101 East Gloucester Pike, Barrington, NJ 08007-1380. Tel. (609) 573-6250. Source of various scientific equipment, including diffraction grating sheets, which can be cut up and distributed in class.

K'NEX, Education Division, P.O. Box 700, Hatfield, PA 19440. Tel. (800) 563-KNEX. Roller Coaster Physics Education Set. K'NEX construction set for model roller coaster and inclined plane. Comes with physics curriculum support.

Mattel Toys, Consumer Affairs, El Segundo, CA 90245. Tel. (800) 524-TOYS. Hot Wheels G-force Stunt Set. Comes with pieces for setting up loops and jumps.

Pasco Scientific, 10101 Foothills Blvd., Roseville, CA 95678. Tel. (800) 772-8700; FAX (916) 786-8905. Kits for construction of very inexpensive vertical and horizontal accelerometers ($61.00 for 15 vertical and 15 horizontal accelerometers, includes handout material for playground and elevator physics) are available here, as well as other lab equipment. By Jan. 1996, their equipment should also interface with the CBL system (the necessary connectors will become available).

Amusement Park Physics: Digitized Video Collection. (Link Broken)

The Science Source, P.O. Box 7237, Waldoboro, MA 04572. Tel. (207) 832-6344; FAX: (207) 832-7281. Inexpensive accelerometers (dual, horizontal and vertical) are available here.

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  • Updated 2/28/2014 - Utah State University Physics Department
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