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


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Math Trek

Tilt-A-Whirl Chaos (II)

9:44am, October 7, 2002

The Tilt-A-Whirl amusement park ride serves as a wonderful example of a chaotic system.

The unpredictable motion of the Tilt-A-Whirl's cars occurs when the ride's seven platforms travel at a speed of about 6.5 revolutions per minute along the undulating, circular track (see Tilt-A-Whirl Chaos (I), April 22, 2000).

At such a platform velocity, even slight changes in starting position lead to radically different sequences of car movements. It becomes virtually impossible to predict several seconds ahead of time what a car will do next. Such a sensitive dependence on initial conditions is a hallmark property of chaos.

Interestingly, Tilt-A-Whirl fanatics know by experience that they can actually take advantage of this sensitivity. They can affect th

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