austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

Well, we're all in the mood for a melody

By this time we were drawing near the close of the park for the day, and considering how to finish riding things and hoping we could stick around a little later than the proper closing time.

I'd mentioned starting out there were several carousels at Cedar Point, and one of them we came to only now, so late in the day. This one had a lovely blend of animals of all kind, including rabbits, and had served as inspiration for bunny_hugger in various ways which left me feeling privileged to share.

One ride that was fascinating me and neatly explained several times by bunny_hugger was ``Disaster Transport'', an indoor coaster with a fascinating and fairly long history that seems to consist mostly of tinkering with the ride's theme and supporting props and then giving up on the theme and the props. It had started out as an outdoor ride with the theme of being a kind of run to an avalanche-stricken base somewhere in the Arctic (under the name ``Avalanche Run''), and over the years been enclosed, and re-themed as a run to a disaster-stricken space station. The enclosures have that odd corrugated-sheet-metal look and mysterious symbols like ``12 E'' on the outside, and there are even a few pieces that seem to be thematically tied to it but lead some distance away from the ride. It was one of those, near the WildCat ride, that first attracted my eye much earlier in the day since it didn't seem to have anything to do with that part of the park. Well, it didn't.

The thing is that over the two decades since its last renovation, well, things fall apart. Effects started breaking down and not getting replaced. Sounds got to not triggering corectly. Stuff got covered up. By the end of last season they'd taken the sound effects off altogether, but according to Wikipedia different props are put in for the Halloween season. I was fascinated by this odd little ride that sounds as if it's just been forgotten by whoever's supposed to be responsible for the rides, and since we were finally back in the vicinity of it we looked eagerly to the ride. It had closed already for the night. I hope I get the chance to ride it sometime.

Well. This did give us a little more time to consider another roller coaster, and whether it was actually a roller coaster. The ride (there's no disputing that it's a ride) was near it, the ``Wicked Twister'', which Wikipedia says is the tallest and fastest inverted roller coaster in the world, though is not a complete-circuit one. What this means is it's basically a 'U' shape, with the cars lunging forward up a tower, falling back, going backwards up the other tower, falling forward, and so on for several loops. The track spirals on either end as the end seems to be getting really very close, and since it uses a linear induction motor to start things off it gets going there very, very fast. In sending people off for the ride the ride operator just says, ``Bye''.

The second pass through accelerates the cars even faster, so they climb higher towards the certain doom if they went off the top of the track. It's the sort of thing that makes one really appreciate studying kinetic and potential energy in physics class.

It may not prove very surprising that one of the things bunny_hugger and I find delightful to do together is to discuss definitions, of what we mean by terms and what we think we want those terms to mean. We are a philosopher and a mathematician, after all. We usually get into these things by pausing to look at something and wonder about it, and Wicked Twister was one of them. Is this sort of ride what we usually think of as a roller coaster? It's certainly a thrilling ride, but are there features of what we definitely think of as roller coasters that this lacks? Are these essential features? If we toss this out of the class we've constructed of roller coasters are we also tossing out something we definitely want included?

We try not to be dogmatic about these things, but it does feel like there's something a bit not quite exactly right in a roller coaster that isn't a complete circuit, or at least a nearly complete circuit. Of course there's no way this ride could exist as a complete circuit, but if it is a roller coaster it's an odd case of the kingdom, a monotreme among the mammals. If it doesn't seem like this sort of thing should be fun, well, philosopher and mathematician, remember. A lot of our interesting work is thinking of classes and finding where we think the edges of those classes ought to be.

In rushing onto the ride we skipped my sitting in the test seat they had out front. This visit really got me appreciating how much weight I've lost this year, because I had no serious problem fitting into the harnesses for any rides, and we took it on faith and the shortness of the hour that I could fit in Wicked Twister too. I could, and did.

From on the ride, it looks like there's a really convincing chance of running up to the edge of the track and I grew to appreciate just what sort of excitement I was inflicting on Roller Coaster Tycoon 3 ``Peeps'' in developing rides like this that came to the brink of the track ends. From off the ride it actually doesn't look like it comes close to the edge of the tracks, and we got to wondering about whether the very end might make use of forced-perspective tricks to make it look like the edge was nearer than it really was. Of course, at the high speeds, 215-foot climbs, and 450-degree twists getting there most any sort of end will prove exciting.

So we took some pictures, and admired the tower, and we started walking back in the vague direction of the entrance, and bunny_hugger subtly guided me somewhere special.

Trivia: For a navigational aid in the final approach to landing the space shuttle design used the Pentagon's Tactical Air Navigation system, with a transponder on the ground giving bearing and range. This sytem was certified only for altitudes up to 50,000 feet, but three off-the-shelf receivers worked fine for the 140,000 feet altitude shuttle required. Source: Development of the Shuttle, 1972 - 1981, T A Heppenheimer.

Currently Reading: Physics In The Nineteenth Century, Robert D Purrington.


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