Thursday, April 26, 2012

Six Flags Physics

Ever year, members of the Physics Central team descend on Six Flags America theme park to test the laws of physics and strength of our stomachs (some fared better than others). Meanwhile, thousands of physics students enjoyed roller coaster thrills while learning some physics at our stations around the park.

This year, we came armed with accelerometers, an egg drop demo, and several other physics goodies. So strap in, and enjoy the ride.

The Batwing roller coaster at Six Flags America. Students on the ride wore special vests to measure their accleration on this and other rides. Image courtesy SPS.

At most of the major rides at the park, we had accelerometer booths set up, allowing students to see their accelerations throughout the ride. The devices measured accelerations in all directions in addition to altitude, allowing us to match each coaster's major drops with the resulting accelerations.

Acceleration data from 2011 for the Superman roller coaster courtesy Buzz contributor Echo Romeo. Click on the image for a better view. The top graph tracks the y-axis acceleration over time, and the bottom graph displays altitude over time.

Students who chose to ride with the acceleromters got to wear some stylish blue vests. And if that wasn't enough to convince them to explore the physics of the rides, they got to jump to the front of the line as well.

Yours truly handing out those stylish vests. Image Credit: Mike Lucibella.

In addition to the accelerometers, we also had several demos set up throughout the park. Perhaps the most popular demo was the egg drop from atop a crane. Students were allowed to spend up to $15 on supplies to build an egg holder that would save the egg from concrete catastrophe. Prizes were awarded for teams with surviving eggs and the most innovative designs.

The egg drop contest pits student-designed egg containers against a long fall from atop a crane. Image Credit: Mike Lucibella.

The American Physical Society, the Society of Physics Students, and the American Association of Physics Teachers have been hosting this event for years, and we'll be holding another one next spring. So if you'll be in the Washington, DC area next spring, keep your eyes peeled for Six Flags Physics Day 2013.


  1. That's so cool! I wish I could live this experience!

  2. Wired just called. They have another ride they need you to check out. Oh, and bring the accelerometer vest!