Tilt-A-Whirl Chaos (I) | Science News

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Math Trek

Tilt-A-Whirl Chaos (I)

By
3:30pm, October 2, 2002

Much of the fun of an amusement park ride results from its stomach-churning, mind-jangling unpredictability. The Tilt-A-Whirl, for example, spins its passengers in one direction, then another, sometimes hesitating between forays and sometimes swinging abruptly from one motion to another. A rider never knows exactly what to expect next.

Yet these complicated, surprising movements arise from a remarkably simple geometry. A passenger rides in one of seven cars, each mounted near the edge of its own circular platform but free to pivot about the center. The platforms, in turn, move at a constant speed along an undulating circular track that consists of thr

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