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Ferris Wheel And The Physics Behind It

The best way to understand Physics while having fun is by visiting amusement parks. Swing boats, Ferris wheels, bumper cars, carousels, and roller coasters are some of the most common fun rides that can be seen in any amusement parks. But did you ever try to understand how these things work? What is the principle behind these fun rides?

In this article, we shall try to understand the Physics behind one such fun-filled ride: Ferris wheel. Also, the terminologies from Physics that can be related to the working of the Ferris wheel.

Working of a Ferris wheel

Just by looking at the Ferris wheel, one can say that it is under a circular motion and is subjected to centripetal acceleration. Ferris wheels are large structures that rotate about a central axis. The outer rims support the seats hanging downward. The seats are attached to the outer rim so that they can move freely with the support of the connecting wheel. Gears and motors provide the upward spin while gravity pulls the wheel back to the ground, resulting in a continuous cycle.

Basic Physics terms that help in understanding how Ferris wheel works:

  • Acceleration: It is defined as the rate of change of velocity with respect to time. Acceleration is also equal to force by mass.
  • Force: Force is responsible for the change in velocity, shape, or direction of any object. Force is the product of acceleration and mass.
  • Mass: The amount of matter present in an object is known as mass.
  • Gravity: The force that draws objects towards the center of the earth.
  • Centripetal acceleration: It is defined as the property of an object in which the acceleration is directed radially towards the center of the circle.

During the ride, one can feel heavy and light depending on their position on the wheel which is a result of centripetal acceleration. It is important to understand that the centripetal force is always acting towards the center of the circle.  When the passengers are at the top of the wheel, the centripetal acceleration is acting downward.

Let F1 be the force exerted by the passengers at the top of the wheel, then the force is given as:

F1 = m (g-a)

This is the reason why passengers feel light when they are at the top of the wheel.

As the wheel moves down, the centripetal acceleration is pointing upwards and the passengers experience both rotation as well as weight. The combination of these two is greater than the acceleration which makes passengers feel heavier.

Let F2 be the force exerted by the passengers at the bottom of the wheel, then the force is given as:

F2 = M (g+a)

The above equation is responsible for the heaviness that is felt by the passengers at the bottom of the Ferris wheel.

Hoping that you understood what makes the Ferris wheel move in a circular motion and how Physics plays an important role in all the amusement rides.

Interested to learn more concepts of Physics such as the first law of thermodynamics, stay tuned with BYJU’S. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel.

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