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Physics of the Ferris Wheel

  1. Oct 4, 2011 #1

    I love rides but the one that thrills me is Ferris Wheel. Today, while I was enjoying the ride, I noticed something that's really interesting. When I reach the top and fall rapidly, it seems as if I am loosing gravity and also something unexplainable happens in the abdomen. Please explain why ....
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 4, 2011 #2
    Wow, sounds like your Ferris wheel goes a little faster than those around my parts...

    According to GR, gravity and acceleration are equivalent forces. When you reach the apex of the ferris wheel, your velocity changes from a (generally, its technically angular, but I'm trying to keep it simple) upward velocity to a downward velocity. This velocity change(aka acceleration), which I don't know the exact numbers on in your scenario, in combination with the constant acceleration you feel from gravity, cancel or come close to cancelling and give a brief experience of weightlessness/freefall.
    The feeling in your stomach is a common reaction. Try a roller coaster.
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2011
  4. Oct 5, 2011 #3
    Why does stomach get such a strange feeling ? Is it due to some hormone secretion or because of being scared ??
  5. Oct 5, 2011 #4


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    Staff: Mentor

    Your stomach gets that feeling because the reduced (felt) force of gravity literally makes your guts move up.
  6. Oct 5, 2011 #5
    Please use mathematics and explain how they both cancel each other.
  7. Oct 5, 2011 #6
    Cancel is a poor word choice that I suppose I shouldn't have used. Are you suggesting that you don't understand the concept but would understand the mathematics? Is this your homework?
  8. Oct 5, 2011 #7
    No, that's not my homework. I wanna know what actually happens there. And I believe Mathematics is the best tool of Physics. That's why I asked you to use a bit mathematics.... thnx
  9. Oct 6, 2011 #8


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    Homework Helper

    The circular path at the top of the ferris wheel approximates the path of a peak of a parabola, which is the path of free fall. In the case the ferris wheel, it's not moving fast enough to be in full free fall, but in this case, the downwards acceleration is enough that you can sense that the force of gravity on your internal organs is reduced due to the downwards acceleration.
  10. Oct 6, 2011 #9


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    Staff: Mentor

    What math do you want to see? Your vertical acceleration is just radius times the cosine of the angular acceleration. Its simple harmonic motion.
  11. Oct 6, 2011 #10
    Thanks. I got it
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