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Physics/Magnetic more-than-rail


Good morning Mr. Steve,
I'm Bart and I'm from Poland. I've been a physics enthusiast for a while now, but not that kind of physics in text books, but the things that make it fun, launching things into space or magnetism, static electricity and many different things. One mind was born in my head few days ago: to make a magnetic racing track. It shouldn't be 'that' tough to do since all of the laws are already researched and can be used over time with an onboard computer, but there's a thing that's bothering me.

I'll post some images to help you get the grip of my idea.
The first position is obvious, we have the gravity force equal to gravity pull multiplied by the mass of an object: F=mg.
We have to use enough gravity force to keep both forces equal, the gravity pull and the magnetic force at certain height, that is obvious for me.

Then we have this. When you try to turn your vehicle to one side, there appears a new force which I called F1 for now, angled alpha to the Q force. I guess the net force will be F1+Q opposite to Q and F1. Am I right?
Even if I'm right, how do I increase the power of my magnet? What if I use electromagnets?

Now, the third scenario. When the track angle is big enough that the magnetic force isn't enough to pull the car further up. Or is it? What happens when something like this happens?

And the last one, when the track is shaped like a tube outwards.
Does the car fall to one of the sides? If not, then how to calculate Fm in this example?

If this makes it easier for you to understand what's behind my idea, I based it on a 12-year old game, F-Zero GX, which works quite similar to this, but doesn't really contain much of the examples #3 and #4, it looks like for example here:

Thank you for reading my request :)
Bartłomiej Szymański

The kind you find in text books is physics, and it's technically the same kind that "make it fun."  The physics is no different, fun or boring.  If you do any research on maglev tracks, however, you will find that even straight ones are fraught with complexity and challenges when it comes to actually making them work.  The first two pictures are simple examples that are exactly like planes flying (using lift on wings instead of magnets) and banking, found in any textbook, for example.  You need to learn about components to properly split up F1, though.  Since you like youtube:

The third picture is more complex, you draw a curved track but no components of force aside from net forces right at the very center.  The thing about magnetic tracks is that their forces have a high local variability, and you need a full 3D sketch to be truly meaningful.  For your fourth scenario, yes the car offs off one side.

Basically #3 and #4 are not good examples.  They gloss over a lot.  The fourth is pure fantasy, they gloss over many of the important details.  The gaming engines have the very basic physics correct, but many shortcuts are taken.  My brother does this for a living, I know what goes into his code (he never stops talking about it).

In the end, are you trying to make this happen somehow?  You never really asked much of a question.


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Dr. Stephen O. Nelson


I can answer most basic physics questions, physics questions about science fiction and everyday observations of physics, etc. I'm also usually good for science fair advice (I'm the regional science fair director). I do not answer homework problems. I will occasionally point out where a homework solution went wrong, though. I'm usually good at explaining odd observations that seem counterintuitive, energy science, nuclear physics, nuclear astrophysics, and alternative theories of physics are my specialties.


I was a physics professor at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin, research in nuclear technology and nuclear astrophysics. My travelling science show saw over 20,000 students of all ages. I taught physics, nuclear chemistry, radiation safety, vacuum technology, and answer tons of questions as I tour schools encouraging students to consider careers in science. I moved on to a non-academic job with more research just recently.

Ph. D. from Duke University in physics, research in nuclear astrophysics reactions, gamma-ray astronomy technology, and advanced nuclear reactors.

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