Some of history’s most impressive feats of engineering allow our species to accomplish everything from deep sea diving to space travel without dying horrible, painful deaths. The same holds true for amusement park rides, which provide us the ability to spit in god’s face by creating structures that safely fling us through the air at incredible speeds or drop us from skyscraper-heights.
The latter of these is the focus of a new video from YouTube channel Art Of Engineering, which explains how science makes it possible for us to somehow not die while plummeting to the ground on drop tower rides.
Art Of Engineering, a channel you may remember from past hits such as “how we don’t get turned into a fine red mist on the Tower Of Terror,” starts off with a history lesson. It explains that drop towers stem from a parachute-enabled ride from the 1939 New York World’s Fair and a 1920s Soviet paratrooper training devices. (Military engineers must have noted, with quiet satisfaction, how often the soldiers went “wheeee!” on these exercises.)
A few decades and a World War later, a Swiss ride manufacturer decided we all needed more excuses to feel gut-wrenching existential terror in our daily lives, and went on to create “the first modern drop tower” in 1995. The video describes how these rides work through magnetic braking systems that slow the drop cars by creating “a magnetic drag force” between the base and those cars. Other variations use pistons and air pressure to control the ride’s speed. In either case, these forces are controlled well enough that we can allow ourselves to trust hungover teenage amusement park operators to keep our insides contained in our bodies when we strap in to drop off the side of a huge tower.
Watch the rest of the video for yourself to marvel at the ingenuity of the minds who work so tirelessly to create incredible new ways for us to feel like we’re about to die whenever we have an afternoon with nothing better to do.
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