Re: I-Drive Orlando | Skyscraper| US Thrill Rides
Is there a maximum limit to how tall a drop tower can be? As in, is there a maximum height where it will kill you, no matter what brakes, or other safety features you have?
Well... as long as you've got brakes, the fall wouldn't harm you. After all, terminal velocity is a thing, and decellerating down from that wouldn't be much of a problem - you've got a very tall tower to mount brakes on. It's just a matter of starting early enough with the braking.
So if anything, the height itself would be the dangerous part. Let me just link to an excellent blog
that explores that option...
We must have to disregard engineering issues, by the way. It might be feasible to build a drop tower some two kilometres tall, if mounted inside some Eiffel-tower-like structure made of high-grade steel, but for death to be guaranteed, you'd have to go higher than that. Maybe some kind of active structure
would be able to reach those heights, but in practise, you wouldn't manage to build high enough to kill riders. Let's just assume the tower stays upright via the use of magic or something.
It seems that at a height of approximately two kilometres (over flat land, if you started at the bottom of a valley it'd be less of a problem), the wind would really pick up, temperatures drop, and you'd probably get frostbites on exposed skin. Though, a well-dressed parkgoer with a ski mask could probably survive that rather comfortably.
Four kilometres. Now oxygen deprivation would become a bit of a problem. Mountain climbers regularly go higher, though, and you'be sitting still in a seat, which is an activity that won't consume or require that much oxygen (that is, unless you're hyperventilating as a result of height anxiety, though by hyperventilating, you'd effectively breathe in more oxygen and get your required dose at the cost of some frostbites inside your mouth).
Eight kilometres. Commonly known as the "death zone". On Everest, this is where climbers have to pass the frozen bodies of less fortunate tourists. The temperatures require special clothing. There isn't enough oxygen in the air to sustain the body - the oxygen content of the air is less than the one your blood needs to stay useful, meaning that breathing effectively yields a net loss
of oxygen. Even sitting in a seat, relaxed (and wondering when the heck this thing is going to stop - at this point you've been sitting there for half an hour or more), would be exhausting. You'd be higher up than most continental flights, the wind would tear your clothes to pieces if you opted for the cheapest Chinese knock-off variants, and eventual lightning bolts might hit you from below
. The sight of your less physically fit co-riders dying would also be bad for morale, putting additional strain on your body. Also, since you're not moving, but sitting still, blood circulation in your body isn't very good. You'd start to lose toes and fingers around the 4-5 kilometer-mark, and higher up your nose, genitals and limbs in general would also freeze to the point of gangrene. It'd take a while for that to kill you, though, the drop in core temperature and lack of oxygen would be a problem long before any infected limbs.
Any higher than eight or nine kilometers, the result would be the same. At this point, you'd be dead no matter what, from frost and oxygen deprivation (or, again, fear of heights). Might as well drop back down. On the way, depending on the aerodynamic properties of the car, you'd reach a speed of some six or seven hundred kilometers per hour. That's 4-5 times faster than the tower proposed for Florida. Our tower, however, is forty times taller, so even though you'd require the braking strip to be many times longer than for conventional rides (16 times, I think, assuming the same rate of decelleration), the tower is plenty tall enough.
But what if you had a pressurized, oxygen-supplied cabin for the passengers?
Well, then you could go as high as you wanted. As we established, braking is no problem. The Apollo capsules had a velocity of 30,000 kph upon atmospheric reentry, and decelleration didn't kill any of those astronauts. Actually, such a high drop tower could in practise be a space elevator
, which could be useful for bringing stuff into orbit without the use of rockets. Or, well, "stuff". The design of our cabin would only be useful to transport amusement park guests.
Also, you'd only be able to manage one trip on the ride, at most, during a park stay of conventional duration. And the queues would be horrible.