August 16, 2014
Here is a great waterslide experiment to squeeze in while the weather is still nice. Don’t miss out on this great excuse to go to the waterpark one more time! You get to investigate how your weight affects your speed going down a waterslide.
Episode 11: The Waterslide Experiment
I’ve always wondered about the physics of waterslides. They don’t seem to work quite like we learn in school. Well, what I should say is what we learn about friction doesn’t seem to fit. Whenever my family has visited the waterpark it seems like heavier people go faster down the slides. But according to the simple model of friction taught in physics, heavier people should have more friction (if the surfaces are the same) and so go slower.
There doesn’t appear to be much on the web that investigates this. There was a video that went viral about 5 yrs ago that had a guy with a huge waterslide and ramp that launched him into the air and landed him in a kiddie pool hundreds of feet away (It was a fake). Mythbusters did an episode on it. It was pretty cool. You can see part of it here. But it doesn’t address the speed issue.
This waterslide experiment is an attempt to figure out how your speed is affected by your weight. We first need to come up with a lot of data (this is where I need your help) and then second to figure out a better model for how friction works on waterslides.
Here’s the waterslide experiment video:
OK, this is a chance for you to have a great time and do some science at the same time. What could be better than that!!!!!! (don’t answer that). This is the perfect opportunity for you to convince your parents that you need to go to the waterpark one last time. Or if you don’t live near one, you can convince them to buy you that really long sheet of plastic you’ve secretly wished for all these years.
After all, this is for science. You would be learning stuff…even better than that you would be doing science….you would be a scientist….and what better way to spend your free time then job training, right??!!! Tell your parents it is an investment in your future career.
I would love to crowdsource the waterslide experiment. Get as many people doing science as we possibly can. Sure, my 9 data points hint at a interesting connection, but we need 100’s or even 1000’s of data points to really nail down the full story. How does weight really affect the time it takes to go down a slide? Is the trendline really a straight line, or is there a curve to it? Does it only apply to tubes?–what about those mats you can use at the waterpark?–What about those little blow up cushions you get with some store-bought water slides?–what about going down a slide without a tube or mat or cushion?
Are you convinced to help yet? Are you STOKED about science yet?
Let’s do this. The great waterslide experiment of 2014. It will be awesome!
Post your results in the comments or send them to me at
Now go do some science:)