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The yearning to feel your gut drop­-the roller coaster as a machine, an economic system, and an experience

05.06.2007
Riding a roller coaster is a first-class ego trip, an adrenalin kick that takes the rider on a trip, albeit only back to the starting point. Helena Csarmann at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm has studied how an apparently insignificant experience can constitute the foundation for a technologically advanced and profitable industry.

The yearning to feel your gut drop­-the roller coaster as a machine, an economic system, and an experience

In 2007 there are more than 2,000 roller coasters in the world. The amusement park industry all over the world turns over more than 20 billion dollars each year. New, ever higher and faster roller coasters are constantly being built.

Through interviews with constructors, owners, and enthusiasts who circle the globe in quest of the ultimate experience, Helena Csarmann has studied three different perspectives on the roller coaster, its construction, its investments, and the consumption of the experience.

"The competitive perspective permeates all three aspects, for cultural or economic reasons, or simply because G forces are fun. Engineers, amusement park operators, and the enthusiasts all compete when they construct, purchase, or ride roller coasters," says Helena Csarmann.

The dissertation has two main objectives. One is to study and explain roller coasters and their industrial economy. The other is to show the often forgotten whimsy of the driving forces that sometimes lie behind technological and economic development, using the roller coaster as an example.

Helena Csamann's aim is to provide an in-depth picture of industrial economy-­that an apparently insignificant experience can be the basis of a profitable industry.

"You can make money on amusement park rides, so they do possess utility according to economic theory. At the same time, the end product in this case does not constitute a necessity of life. In other words, the image of companies as producers of the necessities of life does not accord with the case of the roller coaster," she says.

Riding a roller coaster is a first-class ego trip, an adrenalin kick that takes the rider on a trip, albeit only back to the starting point. Helena Csarmann at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm has studied how an apparently insignificant experience can constitute the foundation for a technologically advanced and profitable industry.

Both the final product and the work behind it are seen, depending on who you ask, as deadly serious, she maintains. One of the aims of her research was to understand just how serious is this wish and will to let your sense experiences rule.

"There is a calculable part, the technological and economic, and a non-calculable part, all about just the right feeling in your gut, created by properly pitched curves and drops and by the form and color of the roller coaster," says Helena Csarmann.

The history of the roller coaster is a long one. The idea for one of the first roller coasters on Coney Island outside New York in the late 19th century was suggested to its constructor by a tourist attraction in Pennsylvania, a railroad that was originally used for transporting coal with the help of gravity.

The competitive element between constructors and owners has driven the industry to create ever bigger, faster, and more elaborate roller coasters.

"Kingda Ka" at Six Flags Park in Jackson, New Jersey, which is the fastest (206 km/hr) and highest (139 meters) roller coaster for 2007, cost 25 million dollars.

Disney's "Expedition Everest," the company's largest roller coaster, cost four times that sum. The roller coaster experience is a major investment, employing advanced engineering.

"The titillating feeling of expectation we feel standing in line, the nervousness when it's finally our turn to get on, the jolt of the roller coaster starting, and the suction we feel when the speed changes-­all of this is the result of the efforts behind the construction of the roller coaster," says Helena Csarmann.

Title of dissertation: The Roller Coaster­The Quest for the Holy G Force

Contact: Helena Csarmann, cell phone: +46 (0)73-9137828; helenacsarmann@indek.kth.se

Magnus Myrén; myren@admin.kth.se; +46-705 70 43 50

Magnus Myrén | idw
Further information:
http://www.vr.se

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