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Entertainment Science

The Physics Behind Waterslides 79

theodp writes "National Geographic takes a high-level look at the physics behind waterslides. A lot of science goes into providing a safe 60 mph trip down slides like Walt Disney World's 10-story Summit Plummet. 'Safety is our number one concern,' explains Rick Hunter of ProSlide Technology. 'We're thinking about things like, "are you going to stay on the fiberglass tube," it's really easy to do a computer model and look at curves and drops and forecast rider position and speed.'"
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The Physics Behind Waterslides

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  • by BenJeremy ( 181303 ) on Monday July 08, 2013 @10:37AM (#44215743)

    Just learned about this.... legendary for injuries. I'd guess physics had far less to do with the design than lots of beer and whiskey.

    Action Park might be better known to you East Coast Slashdotters as "Traction Park", "Accident Park", or "Class Action Park" and closed in 1996 after 18 years and 5 fatalities.

  • by NJRoadfan ( 1254248 ) on Monday July 08, 2013 @11:07AM (#44215969)
    I never did get to visit that park as a kid. Weird NJ has a ton of stories on their site about that place. The slides were dangerous simply because they didn't have past data or computer modeling (that the OP talks about) when designing them, so they winged it and called the park's attractions "extreme". Some of the slides survive in Action Park's successor, Mountain Creek. The looping water slide didn't make the cut though.
  • Re:Explain This (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jeffmeden ( 135043 ) on Monday July 08, 2013 @11:12AM (#44216013) Homepage Journal

    "We know from Galileo that all objects near the surface of the Earth accelerate downward at the same rate," he says. "But you also have to think about air resistance. That's why a bowling ball and a piece of paper don't fall at the same rate. You accelerate at a certain rate, but the force that's pulling you down depends on that number and your mass."

    Everyone knows this. But then...

    As for rides with steep drops instead of curves, heavier riders do go faster, he says.

    Now I am confused. Is this assuming heavy riders have more friction with the slide/water or more air resistance or that Newtonian Physics can suck a fat one?

    Heavy riders experience less relative resistance, since an object (er, a human's) mass increases faster than the area in contact with the slide. Same goes for wind resistance but i suspect it plays a smaller role.

  • by RedShoeRider ( 658314 ) on Monday July 08, 2013 @12:18PM (#44216559)
    I visited that Park. A lot Grew up about 45 minutes away from there. Had friends who "lifeguarded" there.

    A little bit of background for everyone: the park was located in Vernon, New Jersey (USA), built into the side of a small mountain, hence it's successor's name being Mountain Creek. It was a combination water park / Ski resort, depending on the time of the year.

    Perhaps one of the best ways to think about this place is to imagine your favourite water park, saying to yourself "Gee, that ride is great, but I wish I could do...blah...which is prohibited by the rules and the lifeguards would throw me out.". Now imagine that same situation, except that there was no getting thrown out and no one cared about the rules. It was the inmates running the asylum a lot of times. Sure, it made it a metric ton of fun, but the injuries were often severe. Broken legs, dislocated everything, electrocutions....the ambulance was in very frequent use in that place. Some of it was the ride design, as the safeguards and engineering just weren't there. The rest....well, for insance, they had a "Cliff Dive". It was just that....a rocky outcropping about 35' above the main pool. They had weight restrictions, height restrictions, warnings about this and that....and it was all roundly ignored. The lifeguards were supposed to keep the landing area clear, but sometimes they screwed up and damn near had one person landing on another. Oh, and they warned you not to straight dive in, as you could theoretically hit the bottom. Theory, my ass. You could do it pretty easily. As I said....the engineering wasn't. They ran that park cheap, charged a decent amount for admission, and smiled all the way to the bank.

    But, as bad as it was, there were hundreds of thousands of folks who came though there with little more than a smile and some sunburn. For a grabasstic teenager, it was a Paradise.
  • Re:Just curious (Score:5, Interesting)

    by swb ( 14022 ) on Monday July 08, 2013 @12:29PM (#44216689)

    How many water park visitors use the fucking shower before going to the water park?

    We went to the local amusement park here in the Twin Cities last summer and because my brother in law doesn't like rides, part of the deal was going to the water park.

    About a week and a half later my foot was killing me -- it looked like I had some kind of sore on my toe. I went to the doctor and he was like "Wow, that's a bad one.." explaining I had a serious infection. He used a sharpie to draw a line around my shin and showed me the infection, telling me that "we don't want it to get to this line...if it does, you'll have to go to the hospital." I got both an injection of antibiotics AND a 10 prescription of something strong.

    I explained the water park visit and he said "yeah, you probably had a small cut in your skin when you were there..." And so that's how you end up with MRSA.

    While I like the idea of water parks (I love to swim, dive, jump, etc), I always worry about the cleanliness of the water itself as well as the surrounding areas and the patrons.

    I might do a Disney water park with my son in the future, but anyplace else they're going to have to really convince me they keep the water clean and the rest of the surroundings clean (ie, 200F chlorine pressure washing).

"Pull the wool over your own eyes!" -- J.R. "Bob" Dobbs