*The world's fastest and tallest roller coaster is Top Thrill Dragster at Cedar Point amusement park in Ohio. It barrels along at 120 miles per hour and soars as high as 420 feet--taller than the Statue of Liberty!
*The first roller coaster in America--the Mauch Chunk Switchback Railway--invented in 1872, wasn't originally a tourist thrill ride, but a gravity-operated train that took coal down a mountain in Pennsylvania.
*In 2002, Richard Rodriguez broke his own world record by riding a roller coaster in Hassloch, Germany, for 104 days!
Full Speed Ahead
When you're creeping skyward to a terrifying height of 300 feet, or plummeting down a vertical drop at over 80 miles per hour, or whipping around a maze of twisted track, you're probably not contemplating the physics of a roller coaster. But now that your feet are planted firmly on the ground, let's check it out.
Roller coaster trains can race along 7,000 feet of track without an engine. They work on the principle of potential and kinetic energy. Potential energy is stored energy--energy waiting to be converted into power. Kinetic energy is that power. It is the energy of motion.
A chain mechanism or catapult launch pulls the train up the first hill. After that, it's all physics. As the train climbs upward, it gains potential energy. The higher it goes, the more energy it stores. When the train is at the top of the hill, it has the greatest amount of potential energy.
As the train descends, the potential energy converts into kinetic energy, which increases as the train moves further down the hill. It goes fastest at the bottom of the hill, and has enough energy to make it up the next one.
When the train climbs upward, it slows down, as the kinetic energy converts back into potential energy. Then over the top it goes, and the cycle continues.
It is this constant change from kinetic to potential energy that keeps the roller coaster careening and you screaming!
A Spiritual Thrill Ride
The High Holidays can sometimes feel like a spiritual roller coaster, carrying us from the excitement of new beginnings on Rosh Hashanah, to the seriousness of Yom Kippur and coasting through the joyous celebrations of Sukkot and Simhat Torah.
These spiritual ups and downs make the High Holidays meaningful. By experiencing the physical joys of Rosh Hashanah, we store up spiritual energy, much like a coaster stores potential energy when climbing an incline. That potential converts into spiritual energy, like kinetic energy, when we reach the thrill, awe, and fear of Yom Kippur. This spiritual momentum provides the “emotional rush” to make it along the track to celebrating Sukkot and dancing during Simhat Torah, ultimately carrying us through the rest of the year. Rabbi Michel of Zlotchow said, “Spiritual growth…is like going uphill in a wagon, where there is upward progress as long as there is active movement.”So buckle your seat belt. You’re in for an exhilarating ride!