vibrate with fear and pleasure


If roller coasters are so popular, it’s probably because humans love to play scare. There are currently some 13,700 circuits scattered around the world. Rich in testimonials from engineers, neuroscientists, circuit designers and thrill seekers, this documentary traces the long history of this very special form of entertainment.

Every year, two billion people jostle each other at amusement parks and fairs, sometimes willing to wait for hours to get laid in increasingly sophisticated facilities. Extreme centrifugal force, accelerations, loops, spirals, impressive curves… The risk of an accident, although rare, does not prevent the search for emotions, the pleasure of being afraid. The chemical reactions of the brain in the face of controlled danger have been studied, stresses the scientist Meryl Malezieux, from the Max-Planck Institute in Munich, where she deciphers the brain mechanisms that make it “vibrate with fear and pleasure”.

“American Mountains”

Originally, the inhabitants of St. Petersburg, after the Napoleonic wars, sprinkled wooden structures with water, which, under the effect of frost, turned into steep ice rinks; in Pennsylvania (United States), miners invent a similar attraction transporting coal in wagons that descend from the mountain. In the tsarist empire, the first roller coasters were called “American coasters”… In 1897 the rudimentary facilities of the world’s first amusement park were built on Coney Island (New York).

Since then, it has been an endless race, on both sides of the Atlantic. According to the documentary, the first looping dates back to 1846. In 1989, Parc Astérix offered a circuit of seven loopings and, in 2013, an English roller coaster lined up fourteen! A New Jersey attraction opened the highest (128 meters) and fastest (200 km/h) circuit in the world in 2005. Record broken in 2010 in Abu Dhabi with 133 meters high and peaks at 240 km/h!

Werner Stengel, a brilliant German engineer, is at the origin of modern circuits thanks in particular to his complex mathematical calculations that made it possible to defy the laws of physics. He is also the inventor of the first modern loop, opened in California in 1975.

As for Daniel Schoppen, another top-level engineer, his job is to design ever more spectacular roller coasters. Like the so-called “Taiga”, installed in Finland, in the Linnanmäki park, and designed “like a musical composition, with its fast and slow passages. And this pothole that we crossed face down». An attraction that lives up to the most demanding expectations, judging by the particularly strong emotions felt by Anita and Bruno, a couple who spend their weekends and holidays trying out roller coasters all over the world: there are almost 2,500 of them!

Roller coaster, the great emotion by Rosi Bundz (Germany, 2021, 52 min). Art

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