How Does a Carousel Work?

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According to the Annenberg Learner, carousels work by maintaining a balance of motion and forces. They rely on the laws of motion, allowing all of the horses to move through a complete circle in the same amount of time.

The Annenberg Learner explains that the horses on a carousel’s outside area need to cover more distance than the inside horses in the same amount of time, meaning that the horses on the outside have a faster linear speed. Some carousels have horses that move up and down, simulating the galloping motion of a real horse. A normal carousel has horses that maintain constant acceleration, tangential speed and radius. However, carousels with galloping horses consider the necessary forces to alter the position of the horses upward or downward as they move around the track. When designing this type of carousel, the mass of the horse and the rider is typically taken into account.

Walter-Fendt explains that a simplified model of a carousel demonstrates centripetal force, which is a force that is directed to the axis of rotation. Newton’s law of inertia states that the speed of a moving body and its movement direction stay constant, unless a force acts upon it. However, considering that the circular motion of a carousel has different circumstances, centripetal force is necessary to make it move.