The Science of Fun

Going to theme or amusement parks with me can be 1) very boring or 2) very interesting.  It's an easy way to get kids interested in chemistry and physics.  The fun is still there.  It's just that the how and why become part of waiting in line.

For my birthday, my two teens and I visited one of our in-state theme parks.  The science lessons are long gone.  When I remark, "Ah, nothing like the smell of ozone," while waiting for the bumper cars, Finola answers with an explanation of how ozone is made.  Waiting for the roller coaster, there's no need to explain why the circles get tighter towards the end of the ride or how pneumatic brakes work.  The only thing of interest is how long the wait for the front or rear row is.

Roller coaster connoisseurs know that the last row is like the tail end of a whip.  You feel the ride more intensely.  The thrill of the front row depends on whether that first drop (say from 205 feet facing straight down) is part and parcel of the whole experience or just the accelerator for the rest of the ride.

Until my last birthday.

Getting old sucks. 

Something happened on the way to middle age.  The ability to enjoy roller coasters went out the window when I started playing trombone with the morning paper. 

It happened on the second time through on a tall, fast full-circuit inverted roller coaster.  It was the cobra roll that did me in.  On the approach to the station, even swinging my legs back and forth while looking straight ahead wasn't enough to calm that weird feeling connecting my head to my stomach.  Keeping lunch inside took lots of strength and concentration.

My roller coastering days are over.  Sniff, sniff.  My fear is that my amusement park days may be over as well.  Following the inverted coaster was the giant swing, that thing that swings you around in circles way up in the air.  It's a midway ride!  And it was making me queasy! 

After that, my day was spent waiting for my kids to ride whatever coaster they wanted.  While waiting, I watched a trio of heavy-set men about my age come off the coaster, retrieve their bottle-shaped beer cans and laugh their way towards the next ride.  How can some people, who are my age and obviously don't take as good a care of their bodies as I do, manage to drink and ride coasters but I, just drinking water, can't? 

Perhaps instead of physics and chemistry, our next trip will include a physiology lesson.


  1. When I was a small lad I loved roller coasters. As I got older I began figuring that life was scary enough without adding false stimulus.

    It sounds nice to spend your birthday with the young ones.

  2. I am reasonably well mentally but struggling with some bad veins in my leg.

  3. My much younger sister and I went tubing down a calm river once and both thought we were going to throw up the entire time...it can't be an "age" thing...right?!