Discussion Questions: Energy in a Roller Coaster Ride
- Think of an example from everyday life where potential energy is transformed into kinetic energy, or vice versa. Draw a diagram that illustrates the transformation, using the interactive activity as an example. Then describe the transformation. For example: When I carry a sled to the top of a snowy hill, the potential energy of the sled increases. As I stand with my sled at the top of the hill, the kinetic energy is zero and the potential energy is at its maximum. As I slide down the hill, the potential energy of the sled decreases and its kinetic energy increases.
- Imagine you are making an animation of a roller coaster with a pie chart representing the total amount of potential and kinetic energy in the system. What are the cars doing as the section representing kinetic energy increases in size?
- The roller coaster in this interactive is a model. In real life, not all of the potential energy of the coaster cars is converted to kinetic energy and back again; some mechanical energy is converted to thermal energy. Describe how mechanical energy gets converted to thermal energy along the track. How does this conversion affect the potential energy and kinetic energy during the ride?