04 September 2007

Can a roller coaster really scare you to death?

get the fuck out of here


Question: The thrill of a great roller coaster ride is that it "scares you to death." But does that ever literally happen? Can a roller coaster really scare you to death?

New study: Bored researchers from the universities of Heidelberg and Mannheim decided to find out. They recorded the electrocardiograms of 55 men and women between the ages of 18 and 71 as they flew around on a modern, high-speed roller coaster at an amusement park in Germany. The 2-minute ride began with a slow 200-foot rise, followed by a four-second free-fall drop (during which the riders felt the physical sensation of a force varying from 4.5 times gravity to negative-1.5 times gravity). The ride continued traveling at a maximum of 75 mph and went through a number of other free-fall drops and sharp turns before delivering its quivering passengers at the end.

Findings: Interestingly—if not surprisingly—the maximum increase in heart rate occurred not during the drops and racing, but in the anticipation phase, as the cars slowly ascended to their maximum height and the riders thought about what was to come. The maximum heart rate for some riders exceeded 200 beats per minute (thats bpm for all you ravers). Almost half experienced minor irregular heart rhythms in the 5 minutes after the ride ended, and one rider experienced a brief period of irregular heart rhythm that resulted in palpitations (the problem quickly fixed itself).

Implications: What does this mean? Maybe nothing: We've all experienced rapid heart rate when we are excited or frightened. Or maybe something: Of 29 fatalities in roller coaster riders reported over a 10-year period, 7 deaths were attributed to a cardiac cause. Considering the huge number of roller coaster rides taken each year around the world, the individual risk must be very, very small. But perhaps people with known significant cardiovascular disease should pass on this thrill.

1 comment:

Lauren said...

Which Batman coaster is that?