How Far Are You Flung When an Amusement Park Ride Goes Terribly Wrong?

Get ready for some #datajournalism.

Alejandro Tauber

Alejandro Tauber

From Motherboard Netherlands:

Let me start off by saying that the Booster Maxxx is the best amusement ride ever. Ever since a friend of mine got me drunk a few years ago and took me to the carnival, I’ve been hooked. The combination of speed, g-forces and pure, unadulterated fear is incomparable. You literally turn a few dollars into true happiness.

Part of the joy of the Booster Maxxx is knowing that every few weeks, a bunch of underpaid Eastern-European carnies take it apart and put it back together again in another city, significantly increasing the chances of a catastrophic accident. Not that I have a death wish—but if I have to die anyway, then a Booster-assisted parabolic launch seems like a good way to go.

Because I wanted to share this unique sensation of joie de vivre/absolute fucking terror with my significant other, I forced her to come to the carnival in Amsterdam with me last weekend for a ride on the Booster Maxxx. It was amazing. Pro tip: nothing says ‘I love you’ like a shared fear of a terrible death.

Once the adrenaline wore off and I regained control of my limbs, my background in physics (which usually stays pretty well hidden) started rearing its head and I found myself wondering a few things. There are signs plastered all over the Booster that proudly tell you the speed and height of the thing. Which means that it shouldn’t be too hard to figure out how far you would fly if something, or everything, went horribly wrong. And because it happens to be my job to share these kinds of brain farts with the world, I decided to do just that. Get ready for some #datajournalism.

I went online to drag up the necessary formulas and reviewed all the numbers. According to the signs, the gondola of the Booster Maxx can reach a speed up to 145 km/h (90 mph), and a height of 55 meters (180 feet). According to the internet, the ideal angle to launch a catapult is 45 degrees. So let’s go with that.

The diagram below shows all the info we have so far (and why I’ll never make it as a graphic designer):

This is what we want to know:

And the rest is a piece of cake. When you leave the Booster Maxx, you are traveling at a speed of 40.3 meters per second at an angle of 45 degrees to the ground. We don’t have to take weight into account because the thing is already at full speed. Let’s leave air friction out of the equation too, but throw in some gravity for good measure.

Now we’ve got a quadratic equation and after some simple calculations, we end up with 168 meters. BUT! We haven’t accounted for the fact that you start at a height of 35.4 meters yet, which you have to add to the total distance. With that extra factor, the grand total is around 204 meters before you die a bloody and painful death.

If everything went perfectly wrong, you would end up 204 meters away from the Booster Maxxx. But where would that be? I was secretly hoping it would be in the nearest hospital, which lies adjacent to the park where the carnival is held. Sadly, it looks like you’d come up short:

Because the Booster first swings one way and then the other, I also checked the other side. If you manage to avoid the trees, you will end up right in the middle of this intersection, where passersby can photograph your tragic accident from every angle:

Right there.

The carnival is moving on next week, but the Booster Maxxx returns to Amsterdam in October, when it will grace Dam Square with its terrifying presence. In case you want to take another stab at being launched by the world’s biggest catapult, this is where you’d end up if it happened:

To the south, you’ll likely land on a few unsuspecting tweens that are just trying to buy a nice crop top at Urban Outfitters. Heading north, I doubt you will make it past the spires of the historic Nieuwe Kerk. Which would be quite the spectacle in its own right.

Anyway, another question’s been answered, and the world is a wiser place. Use it to your advantage.