Here in northern California, there have been two roller coaster mishaps in the past week (I believe there were others elsewhere in the state and/or country, but I’m not sure): one person was killed when the restraint bar released and he was ejected, and several people were stranded for a couple of hours – upside down – when a ride stalled.

Subsequently, the press vultures have been all over amusement park rides: are they safe?, do we need federal inspections?, should you let your kids ride?, etc.

I started thinking about it another way, though: why do we have them at all? In short, why do humans need to be amused, whether through amusement park rides, or skydiving, or comedy clubs, or sitcoms, or whatever?


Cus otherwise we’d be bored. :slight_smile:

As an addendum, but not an answer: There was another accident last week. It was in Virginia. Guy fell off the Shockwave (a stand-up coaster) and died. Of course, they’re saying he got out of the restraints and that’s why he fell. Personally, I’m a little doubtful on that, but that’s just me…

I personally love roller coasters…its the adrenaline rush that holds an attraction for me…but each and every time I get on one…I have to push that nagging thought “what if this thing flies of the track” out of my mind.

ps…I have the same thought while flying…except it’s “what if this thing falls out of the sky?”

I someday hope to become the person my dogs think I am…

Roller coasters are extremely safe. While there are a few nuts who might enjoy sitting in the “death seat” of a coaster, the cost of building and maintaining the beasts make it highly unprofitable to cater only to the deranged.

Most accidents are caused by human error - either a person who works at the park was lazy, careless (like knowingly allowing someone too short to ride) or untrained, or the rider did something to emperil him/herself.

Yes, I am a roller coaster fan, but I am not biassed here… You’re more likely to die from eating all of that nasty theme-park food than you are to perish riding a thrill ride if you follow the rules.

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Oh, I agree. I’m not arguing for more oversight, or anything like that. I’m just wondering why we goofy humans want them, why we need to be entertained, or thrilled, or whatever.


Well in that case…

In the many specials they have on Roller Coasters, they talk of how we like to be excited and scared, but also do not want to die.

Roller Coasters are known as being safe for the most part, the rides are generally short (no longer than a couple of minutes) and they are designed to not be full-on terror, but spacing the scary parts with the tranquil - at least the best coasters do this.

We have a human need to be scared, and though I cannot say scientifically why or what causes it, it’s in all of us…

You also might want to go to rec.roller-coaster and ask afficianados about their own personal views on the attraction.

What timing…on this past Saturday a mother and her 8 year old were killed in Ocean City NJ when the roller coaster they were riding in (going uphill), started to roll backwards and the two people were ejected from the car.

I may have to rethink my love of coasters…

Well, that’s what I’m trying to get at. But not just scared, I think there’s some sort of need to be “amused” in general, where the definition of “amused” encompasses being “scared.” I mean, you can argue that you go to a dramatic play or movie to “learn,” but why do we go to see “Dumb and Dumber?” Why do we go to comedy clubs (or why did we, back in the '80s)? Why are sitcoms so popular?

What causes the need to be amused?


VEG…no Dumb and Dumber has not improved the quality of my life…nor do roller coasters, scary movies, or any “amusement type” thing, but I continue to take part because in many cases, it is fun and I feel as though I could always use some more “fun” in my life. I don’t know if that answers the question for everyone, but it is what causes me to partake.

I seem to recall some talk among neurologists, evolutionary theorists and others that laughter and smiling are behaviors which arose from the need to distinguish between real and unreal threats. (I’m posting from memory and fudging a lot here, so forgive me.)

Anyway, the idea is that the baring of the teeth is usually a sign of aggression and threat; but baring the teeth in a certain manner, accompanied by the noise of laughter, indicates that no real threat is present, and there is no need to worry.

I guess the apparent need for amusement, then, would be a sort of tension/release that humans find pleasing. Most humor comes from the idea of something bad happening to someone else, when you think about it. So, if it happens to them, it didn’t happen to you; and if it didn’t kill them, it isn’t so bad after all. You can get exposed to an apparent threat without suffering.

I don’t consider comedy and rollarcoasters to be in the same category of “amusement”. One is truly to amuse, the other is to thrill…or make you pee your pants and vomit from fear, which is my general reaction to rollarcoasters and the like.

I just went to Universal Studios the other day, for the first time (and I live a mile away!). I didn’t do Jurrasic, because there is a stomach churning drop at the end. I almost didn’t do “Back to The Future” (Virtual reality- throws you all around while you are actually stationary) - what I did do is keep my eyes closed 70% of the time to keep from puking.

The answer to the question, though:

We seek amusment because laughing is pleasurable. We seek thrills because some people like to feel things intensely, even fear.

I am #1. Everyone else is #2 or lower.

THAT’S the kind of thing I’m looking for. Thanks, Phil.

I mean, David’s response above is accurate, I’m just looking for the “why.”