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Name: Tamara
Status: student
Grade: 9-12
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: 6/21/2005

Hi, how exactly do free fall rides work? I am writing a report on the mechanisms and physics part of free fall rides, and have not been able to find much information. All that has been said was that some "magic magnet" is stopping the gondola from hitting the ground. What is this magnet and how is it different to magnets?

Most free fall rides in an amusement park have some sort of lift mechanism that is often counter balanced. In a single tower configuration, the car is usually attached by a hook. Upon release at the top, the car drops. Depending on manufacture, the braking mechanism can be compressed gas or magnetic braking. The magnetic braking you refer to uses standard industrial magnets located in the top of the car. These magnets pass by copper strips anchored to the tower. The relative motion of the two creates eddy currents in the copper. The eddy currents, in turn, create a magnetic field that opposes the original magnetic field, and significantly slows the descent.

---Nathan A. Unterman

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