A water slide taller than Niagara Falls just opened in Kansas City. It stands 168 feet 7 inches tall, includes a 17-story drop, and it’s called Verrückt, which means “insane” in German. Appropriate, since you might have to be missing a few marbles to willingly fling yourself down it.
It looks terrifying, but, according to Gene Van Buren, one of Brookhaven’s physicists, the angle of the drop, the friction of a raft against the slide, and the force of gravity will keep you from flying off of it. He told LiveScience: “The longer and taller a slide is, the steeper the lower half can be for it to still be safe for riders.”
Verrückt has a 60-degree angle at its longest drop, and the water beneath a rider’s raft eases the friction against the slide, producing a feeling of weightlessness. But, said Van Buren, “If it becomes too steep too quickly, then a person or object of any sort would no longer remain on the slide, and would likely become airborne.”
The slide designer’s have pushed this record-breaking thrill ride right up to the edge, allowing for a gut-wrenching drop while still keeping riders from taking flight.
"Free fall can be a rather scary feeling, and people can get a thrill from that,” Van Buren said. “So this is undoubtedly why slide designers push to make the safety margins as small as they can, and get people closer to the verge of becoming airborne, without ever doing so.”