entertainment, life, pop culture, random thoughts, technology

Someone, please build this: the zero-gravity roller coaster

There’s a point on all roller coasters when you crest a hill and, for a heartbeat, you’re weightless. It’s the reason we ride coasters.

Well, I saw a story the other day in Popular Science about a new kind of coaster where you’d be weightless for eight seconds.

Count it out: one-Mississippi, two-Mississippi….

Eight seconds of weightless would last forever.

Right now, the zero-gravity coaster exists only on paper, but according to Popular Science, there’s a company in Southern California called BRC Imagination Arts that’s ready to build it. Cut them a check today, the story says, and you’ll have your coaster by next Christmas.

BRC isn’t some fly-by-night outfit. When I worked in newspapers, I covered the theme-park industry, and I met BRC’s founder, Bob Rogers, a few times. He’s whip smart and really clever. BRC’s worked on everything from the Test Track pavilion at Epcot to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Ill. These guys know what they’re doing, and if Bob Rogers says he can build a coaster where you’re weightless for eight seconds, I believe him.

Here’s what he told Popular Science about the proposed coaster:

You’d sit in a capsule rather than an open car, so there’d be no wind and no visual cues telling you you’re moving. You’d be strapped in, but loosely.

Superman: Escape from Krypton

The track would be shaped like a giant letter “L.” You’d rocket along the track then curve straight up, like the Superman coaster at Six Flags Magic Mountain (see picture).

You’d climb at about 100 m.p.h., and as you neared the top, the capsule would slightly but suddenly decelerate. You’d be thrown out of your seat, like a stone from a slingshot, but the capsule would instantly match your speed.

You would, in effect, be floating inside the capsule.

After a moment, you’d begin to fall, but so would the capsule, matching your speed on the way down and eventually slowing so that you settled back in your cushioned seat.

By the coaster came to a stop, you would have experienced weightlessness for eight long seconds.

If you were to fly NASA’s “Vomit Comet,” the plane the space agency uses to train astronauts, you would experience weightlessness for 25 seconds.

Popular Science says ordinary coasters cost about $30 million but BRC’s zero-gravity coaster would cost $50 million, which sounds like a lot — heck, that is a lot — but Disney spent a reported $100 million to Expedition Everest at Animal Kingdom a few years ago. Fifty million dollars to a theme-park developer is nothing.

I have no idea whether when or whether anyone will actually build BRC’s zero-gravity coaster. I have no idea whether it’s a smart for untrained civilians to be subjected to eight seconds of weightlessness.

But if someone builds it, I’ll volunteer to test the thing, as many times as it takes.

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18 thoughts on “Someone, please build this: the zero-gravity roller coaster

  1. If this got built, it would be one more reason for me not to go to the amusement park. These kinds of thrills don’t excite me in the least!

  2. Michelle says:

    “The whole weightlessnss thing” is the sole purpose of coasters in my humble little opinion. That sounds brilliant. Think they’d need more than one person to test it all out?

  3. My 8 year old son would be sitting right next to you! let him be a tester. You need people of all ages, right? At 7, he was tall enough to ride Superman and has done so a few times now. If this gets built, I’m sure it will be at 6 Flags Magic Mountain, and my son will want to be one of the first riders. We’ll keep an eye out for it.

    Sandi
    http://www.ahhsome.wordpress.com
    Lake Forest, CA

  4. This morning I caught the tail end of a report about folks exploring the depths of the ocean, counting among them Richard Branson. A dollar number was quoted, but honestly, with so many “trillions” being bandied about, it seemed like a trifle, maybe $15 million.

    Anyway…someone in the report said something about the notion capturing the human imagination and I thought how refreshing, if naive, an idea that was. Color me jaded, but I suspect that those investing millions in deep sea exploration also have visions of profit margins in mind.
    I’d forgotten the term “Vomit Comet,” but I do recall that “garns” are used to measure seasickness, in honor of Senator / Payload Specialist Jake Garn.
    Nonetheless, yours is the second story today that made me think that it’s nice that there are still horizons to be explored and dreamers hoping to do so.

    • Exploration has always been about profit. The explorers may simply be curious, but their backers are always in it for the money. Don’t forget, Columbus was trying to find a shortcut to India for Queen Isabella, just as Neil Armstrong went to moon to help General Foods, a division of Halliburton, sell more Tang.

      OK, I made that last part up. General Foods is not, nor has it ever been, a division of Halliburton, as far as you know.

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