THE "PHYSICAL BRAKING" POINT: The Giant Drop and Magnetic Brakes

You're sitting at the top of the Giant Drop and you're seconds away from hurtling down towards earth at amazing cheetah-like speeds. You begin to let your mind wander as you anticipate the drop: When's it gonna happen? Oh, I wish I went to the bathroom before I got on. Wouldn't it be funny if the brakes malfunctioned? Haha... wait what if that does happen? Oh no! I'm gonna die! "No!" you scream out as you chicken out, but its too late, you're plummeting to the ground.

The Giant Drop is a roller coaster in which the rider is blasted to the top of the tower and then randomly dropped. The GD uses a magnetic braking system to slow the riders on their downward descent. The stopping motion of ride is not unlike that of two deflecting magnets. Video from:

If you are planning on riding the Giant Drop anytime soon, one thing you won't have to worry is a breakdown of the brakes. The Giant Drop's brakes will eventually wear out, but not in our lifetime as the special frictionless braking system does not deteriorate to traditional "wear and tear." The Giant Drop uses neodymium, a strong, permanent magnet, as part of its braking system, also involved is an eddy current.

An eddy current is the term used when electrons flow circularly. The physics behind eddy currents involved in the Giant Drop deal with electromagnetic induction. There is a changing current flow through a wire coil in a eddy current probe, and the probe makes a magnetic field that oscillates. When the magnetic field of the probe is brought near a conductive metal, an eddy current flows through the metal. The current flowing through the metal conducts also has its own magnetic field though.

So to operate a brake, an eddy current via a "fin" is placed between two neodymium magnets, the magnetic field of the two magnets are interrupted by the fin and the conflicting magnetic fields cause braking.

The Giant Drop's brakes are very safe and effective due to the reliability of the physics aspect. And although these brakes won't last for all of eternity, they'll outlast us and are a very innovative link of physics and fun.

This image displays how an eddy current is set up and how it works. Image from

For more information please visit:

"Brake Run." Wikipedia. Web. 16 Mar. 2011. <>.

"Great Past." Intamin Worldwide. Web. 16 Mar. 2011. <>.

Nelligan, Tom, and Cynthia Calderwood. "Eddy Current Testing." Olympus. Web. 16 Mar. 2011. <>.How does the Giant Drop use magnets?