Egg Hurl

Balsa Bridge

Magic Mountain



Magic Mountain Measurement Hints

Many of the tasks that you are asked to complete at Magic Mountain depend upon knowing the physical dimensions of objects that cannot be measured directly. Here are some hints to make this easier:


Finding horizontal distances:

You have a ruler, so you could theoretically measure any distance, but it would be tedious to measure a distance of 100 meters in increments of 30cm! A better way is to use pacing. To pace, all you have to do is figure out how long your pace is and then to count off the number of paces that makes up the distance you are measuring. With practice, you can get two significant digits of accuracy, which is enough for anything you need to do at Magic Mountain. It is best to determine your pace length before the trip. Mr. Lyle has a trundle wheel that can be used to measure distance in meters while you pace so that you can easily determine your pace length.

Finding the height of large objects:

There are several ways to determine the height of things like Superman, the Fountains, etc. One way is simply to ask a Magic Mountain employee for the data, but be warned that they often don't know the correct number and might even give you a wildly incorrect number!

A better way to do it is to use pacing and a little ratio math.

Pace a distance A-B roughly equal to twice the height of the object you are trying to measure. That will put the top of the object about 30 degrees or so above the horizon from your point of view. Get down on your hands and knees and get your head near the ground. Have one of your partners walk slowly away from you until their head aligns with the top of the object you are measuring. Tell them to stop, then carefully measure the distance B-C from your head to your partner. At this point, the height of the object can be determined by using the simple ratio:

Height of partner/Distance to partner=Height of object/Distance to object

If you would like to do the same thing with trig, all you have to do is pace off the distance from the object, use the Horizontal accelerometer instrument to find the angle to the top of the object (sight through the straw and have your partner read the measurement from the side of the instrument) and then use the following relationship:

height = (distance to object) tan (angle)

Another approach is to use repeating details in an object, such as steps or structural elements:

As you can see here, the Superman ride consists of repeating identical modules, stacked one on top of another. If you know the height of one module, you can easily determine the height of the whole works!

How to find the height of a module? Look carefully at the bottom of the picture. See the stairs? Stairs are themselves a repeating module, with each step being about 0.2 meters high. Multiply this dimension by the number of steps and you can figure out the height of a module. This works on many of the tall objects at amusement parks, since they all have stairways for the park workers to use while maintaining the ride.

How about objects like the fountains, where you can't walk to them and they have no repeating modules? You can get the approximate height of these by having one of your partners walk a distance away from you equal to the distance to the object. Extend your hand to arm's length and bracket the height with your thumb and index finger. Hold your arm and fingers steady and pivot toward the object, then use the distance between your fingers to determine the number of "partner heights" that make up the height of the object.

Multiply the number of "partner heights" by the height of your partner and you'll get the height of the object! (note, this picture shows the partner standing next to the object, but that isn't required as long as the partner is the same distance from you as the object