On August 16, 1898, Edwin Prescott was granted a patent for the roller coasters' vertical loop. The roller coaster shown in the patent illustration wasn't the first to make a loop, but it was a safer, more comfortable, elliptical-shaped loop.
Prescott's Loop the Loop was unsuccessful because only one car with four passengers could ride the coaster at a time. It closed after nine years of operation.
In the 15th century, Russians built giant, wooden slides that they covered in ice. Then they mounted on an ice block with a straw seat reaching up to 50 miles per hour.
In 1827, the Mauch Chunk Switchback Railway was built to haul coal in the morning and served as a joy ride in the afternoon, reaching 50 miles per hour.
In 1884, LaMarcus Adna Thompson invented the Switchback Gravity Railway, a patented coaster that was gravity-powered. Slow-moving cars faced outward so one could enjoy constructed scenes that would emulate beautiful landscapes around the world.
Some roller coasters can loop-the-loop, but the loop isn't a circle itself, more like the middle of a Venn diagram. The shape and size of the loop is determent by the centripetal force - the force that keeps you from falling out of the roller coaster while it's upside down.
In 1884, Phillip Hinkle patented a powered chain to pull the cars up the first incline before letting gravity take over. Because of this, Hinkle coasters could be built on elliptical paths rather than move from point A to B.
Some people enjoy the thrill of roller coasters. One reason is because of higher levels of dopamine - neurotransmitters associated with reward. Another study found that higher levels of endorphins lead to increased feelings of excitement.
Ron Toomer, one of the most famous roller coaster designers, rarely rode any of his rides. He had severe motion sickness and would much rather sit drawing them than riding them.
The Leap-The-Dips in Altoona, Pennsylvania, is the oldest working roller coaster. It was built in 1902, goes ten miles an hour and doesn't have seatbelts, lap bars or headrests.
The roller coasters of the future promises cars that rotate and roller coaster-water slide mashups. Disney applied for a patent that would allow a car's seat to move, and a German rollercoaster manufacturer shared conceptual renderings for a hybrid roller coaster and waterslide.
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