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Homework Help: Finding centripedal acceleration with tangential acceleration

  1. Apr 16, 2016 #1
    1. The problem statement, all variables and given/known data
    I'm trying to find the centripedal acceleration of a roller coaster at a certain point in time from experimental data of acceleration in the X, Y, and Z directions. I do not know the velocity of the roller coaster, only the acceleration. Thank you!

    2. Relevant equations

    3. The attempt at a solution
    Could I possibly integrate something to find velocity?
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 16, 2016 #2


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    If you integrate the acceleration you'll get velocity, assuming you know the initial velocity - which should be zero for a roller-coaster.

    Integrating again will give you position, so you now have an empirical function that describes the curve that is the roller-coaster track.

    Using that, you can apply the techniques described in this to work out the direction of the curvature at any point on the track, and by combining that with your accel measurements, obtain the centripetal acceleration at that point.
  4. Apr 16, 2016 #3


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    This sounds like an exercise in inertial navigation. This is notoriously difficult because of the rate of error accumulation. You will need extremely detailed data from a known resting start.
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