Let amusement parks open even in Sweden – For responsible summer holidays

drop(This is a translation of a letter to the editor in Dagens Nyheter  23 June 2020)

Mikael Damberg, Minister of the Interior, strains at a gnat but swallows camels. The decision (DN, June 22) that the amusement parks are not allowed open for more than 50 people throughout the summer can possibly be of symbolic value outside Sweden, but cannot be seen as part of a conscious national strategy. E.g. the restriction to 50 people does not apply to beaches and parks (DN, May 22), nor to indoor shopping gallerias. With a strategy of individual responsibility, cafeterias and restaurants can remain open – as long as they are not located inside an amusement park.

The Swedish amusement parks have created detailed plans for safe opening, including virtual queues, extensive hygien routines, as well as requirements that visits be booked in advance, to ensure a drastically limited number of visitors. The amusement parks have routines to manage guest flows, as well as staff who can ensure that guests maintain safe distances. They have vast areas, mostly outdoors, and have been part of an international collaboration generating strategies that now enable Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, Tusenfryd in Olso and other parks in the world to open.

Mikael Damberg (DN 22 juni) tells us all to endure. However, enduring is costly for all those who do not enjoy the privilege of a safe monthly salary from tax money, or can perform their work remotely. For many, it involves furlough, the loss of employment or even their life works ruined.

Damberg also states that it may be difficult to argue for “exceptions for one sector”, indicating that the decision is based on a belief that the virus contagiousness depends on the organizational structure, rather than on real risks. There is no evidence anywhere that amusement parks should pose special risks (e.g. GT June 23). The decision is motivated with reference to a regulation – “an unusually blunt application of an unusually blunt law” (Dagens Industri, 8 juni).

We all agree about the need to bring down the spread of Covid-19. In a situation were Sweden has a much higher death rate than neighbouring countries, we understand that the government feels a need to show that it treats the problem seriously. What we don’t understand is their choice of a symbolic action that can be expected to lack effect, but carries a price tag in the GSEK range. At the same time exceptions are made to the regulation about doctors duty to test patients they expect to be contagious,
(Läkartidningen 12 juni). In addition, international recommendations are not followed (DN 23 juni).

Where will teenagers go this summer? Possibly the large shopping gallerias will be their meeting points. The virus does not care about organization. We thus implore authorities and government to reconsider the regulations, to ensure that they don’t strain at a gnat but swallow camels.

Opening the amusement parks may actually be a more responsible decision than keeping them closed!

Ann-Marie Pendrill, Martin Kahnberg, Christopher Karlsson, Marcus Lövstrand, and Rasmus Sjögestam, all members of the European Coaster Club.

2019 – Into retirement?

AM_LU_talarMy last working day, before mandatory retirement end of May, was spent in Lund Cathedral, during the promotion ceremony, as a host for Doctor Honoris Causa Stanley Micklawzina, with an afternoon full of latin for doctors, honorary doctors, jubilee doctors and even a jubilee honorary doctor: RB Ginsburg (albeit absent). I think that the photo, from the main university building, just before the ceremony is suitable to symbolise the exit. (Although I am sorry to have to confess that, like for my installation, it was unable to find a science faculty talar of moderate length, so I had to wear one from an other faculty, this time Faculty of Fine and Performing Arts, where Stan could also have belonged with his theatric science performances.)

What do I do these days? I usually say that I practice being retired, but that I am not yet very good at it.  (I did volunteer for the European Choir Games in Gothenburg during the summer as a practice event.)

A privilege of being a professor is that you can become emeritus (or rather, emerita, profestrix emerita for purists). For upcoming papers, I have to remember to write “has been” rather than “is” director for the Swedish National Resource Centre – and I am very happy that Urban Eriksson is now finally appointed as my successor (and I continue with a fractional appointment as a “senior professor”).

After the formal retirement, I have been involved with amusement park teacher days and Edutainment days/Physics days at Gröna Lund and Liseberg, a small teacher day in Europa-Park, I have lectured in Australia, practiced visualizing magnetic fields in different parts of the world – and, of course visited amusement parks and analysed data from some of the rides.

Looking forward to another year of practicing being retired, starting with participation in the mathematics biennial in Växjö – talking, of course, about math in amusement rides, and how analysis of smartphone data can add to the learning. Since I first got in contact with these large math feasts for a few thousand teachers, from preschool to university level, during the 2000 biennial in Göteborg, I haven’t missed a single one. Another year of “retirement”, and derivatives and integrals in amusement rides.sequence_blur

Surrounded by magnetic fields

During 2019, I have enjoyed the privilege of being part of the international advisory board for Physics Toolbox AR. Trying out the app, I have been fascinated by the possibilities to catch invisible magnetic field lines and discovering the direction of north by maximising the horizontal component of the arrows.

Travelling to Australia, via Singapore, opened new possibilities to discern how the magnetic field varies with location, and even catch a midday shadow pointing to the north. (And, of course, visiting amusement parks, as well as discussing jerk and other aspects of motion with David Eager’s group at UTS)

So for this solstice post, when the sun is about 10° from zenit in Sydney, but only reaching about 10° over the horizon in this part of the world, I share a few magnetic field screen shots. And wish I could also share some of the rain expected for Christmas eve with NSW and QLD, where it would be needed much more.


PS: No rabbits in this post, but some marsupials illustrating the motion in Enterprise, to facilitate the analysis of data from Lunapark in Melbourne. http://tivoli.fysik.org/english/attractions/enterprise/rotation/melbourne_katting


Diving into 2019

dropThe screen shots of the Valkyria dive shows the near free-fall acceleration during the dive. The accelerometer graph also shows that drop actually involves negative g’s to make the rider follow the nearly vertical track.

The screen shot sequence is one of this year’s experiments with different representations of the motions in amusement rides, to complement simulations, accelerometer graphs and motion tracking from videos as used, e.g. in the papers about the giant gyro swing Loke and the Star Shape Ride Mechanica published in 2018.

Following last year’s practice with a partial “advent-calendar” consisting of an Helix accelerometer graph with images,  I aimed this year for a full advent calendar, based on the Liseberg’s beautiful Christmas map. Looking closer at the start of the Helix ride revealed negative g’s – but only for the back seats – during the first drop out from the station, which can be seen both in accelerometer data and from an analysis of a movie from the start.station_ut2

One of the GoPro cameras from the Resource Centre, mainly intended for recording small-group classroom discussions was coming along for a ride in Valkyria during the press opening. With this photo from the ride I wish you all a save dive into the end of 2018 and happy emergence in 2019.

Happy New Year


Quests for realities and presence

VR exhibits occupied a large space outside the IAAPA theatre during this year’s Euro Amusement Show, EAS18. Many of these exhibits were shooting arcades where (mostly) men ligned up to shoot aliens, enemies or friends, painting them red or turning them into virtual skeletons. For added immersion, shots to your own body could be felt through a vibrating vest.

Simulator movies with moving seats attracted long queues – so I moved on, having experienced that technology many times before, e.g. at EAS16. And even if the seats move they will not expose you to much more than 1 G.

A more unusual display showed a 2D roller coaster projection, where children could insert cars they had drawn themselves, and also. On request, the projection on the wall could also display photos of the child riding in the car they had drawn.

It was quite a welcome change to fly through Open Space with Anders Ynnerman, as part of a retirement symposium for Sten Salomonson a few days later. Anders was telepresent from Scotland, where he had found a spot close to a 3G mast. He ran the visualizations of real data, with the support of a coworker on site in Göteborg, letting us experience the universe in three dimensions, overcoming time and space. Anders showed how planet images were created from photos for probes flying close. Together we all “landed” on Mars covered with real images – so close that you could have seen a person on the ground.

I really believe that many people visiting different attractions would be more fascinated by the telepresence in real reality through 3D visualization techniques, than by immersion in a lonely fantasy world.

Still I jumped when the beatuful lifesize Genie from Sally moved and talked to me as I walked past – fairytales coming to life through technology!

I also had the opportunity to to talk about using amusement parks as learning environment together with Christina Høj from Tivoli and Andreas Theve from Gröna Lund, in a session coordinated by Robert Arvidsson from Liseberg. See a brief report from our session.

Doors and representations, inside and outside.

As 2017 comes to an end, a reflection on doors closing and opening. Turning 65 this year, I can  now travel slightly cheaper on trains and local buses, but it also hints to a countdown to the closing door at 67.

For the Resource centre 2017 has opened wider the doors to research on representations of motion, including virtual reality.

hissningen_0.0_0.4Research,  representations and roller coasters

Following the appointment in April of 2017, Urban Eriksson as a researcher at the NRCF, two PhD students have been added to the Resource centre, with preliminary projects focusing on various representations (“semiotic resources”) used in physics teaching and learning. As part of the preparation, I have looked into various ways or representing the motion of the family ride Hissningen at Liseberg (and the sister rides Lyktan at Gröna Lund and Stjernetårnet at Tivoli Gardens).

As Liseberg is building the new roller coaster Valkyria, simulations have provided doors to sneak previews into the ride, as seen when you ride it: as POV movie or in Virtual Reality, complementing the few images so far available on the liseberg.se/valkyria. A  moving chair made the Valkyria VR experience even more real, even if the variation in the force from the chair acting on you is restricted to changes in angle.

helix_timelineAs I am always curious about the forces in roller coasters arising from the accelerations as the train moves along the track – and how these can be used as examples to support physics learning. The limited footage available for Valkyria reminded me of my special desires for photo angles.

To clarify my wishes, at least to myself, I created a timeline for the Helix roller coaster, based on elevation data from a ride, with small images from the various elements seen from outside. I then realised that raw html technology from the mid-90’s made it possible to let each image be a door to exercises related to that element, advent calendar style. I also discovered that, over the years since Helix opened, I had collected short video clips for most of the elements, that teachers could let students use for video analysis. (See the resulting “calendar“)


Can Virtual Reality experiences of rides support learning?

This question will be explored next year, as part of a collaboration with Malcolm Burt, who pursues a PhD investigating what makes for ideal virtual reality amusement rides. As part of the School Program of the 2018 Gothenburg International Science festival , five classes will have a chance to try out our “Virtual Theme Park”, giving us valuable feedback on how to proceed.

Of course, a virtual reality in a classroom cannot make you experience seconds of weightlessness or feeling much heavier than usual, but since most children in the larger Gothenburg region have experience with many different amusement rides, we hope that they can recall the experience. To help them make connection to the physics learned in school, force representations will be added in an augmented reality version.daemonen_rain

In October, we experienced many types of VR, not only at Liseberg, but also at The Derren Brown Ghost Train in Thorpe Park, the large three-dimensional representation of the universe in “All we are” at the Visualiseringsscenter C in Norrköping. We also tried the  Dæmon VR at Tivoli gardens (where we were amused to find that we both for a split second thought that we wouldn’t be able to see anything with the rain covers on the VR glasses). With much joy I recall the VRcoaster encounter, discussed in an earlier post.

With a December glimpse through the Helix track onto the Liseberg Rabbit Land, I wish you all a …





Quantum mechanics – the dream stuff is made of

Quantum mechanics challenges our imagination. It rules the microworld and lays the foundations for interpreting light from the sun, stars and galaxies, and to learn about the universe.

It enables accurate calculations of properties of atoms and molecules and tools for communication, computing and accurate timekeeping. It provides technological possibilities to investigate the strange predictions of quantum mechanics on interactions between light and matter, down to individual photons and particles.

The list of Nobel prizes is full of examples of how quantum mechanics has changed our understanding of the world and provided the basis for technology that we take for granted. It influences our everyday lives in many more ways than we are aware of.

I will join the March for science as a reminder of the interplay between curiosity and technology.


Tredjedag jul

2016 – a year when social media bubbles of misinformation and hate have grown and risen to the surface, as much as to change the world, bringing even more sorrows and worry and exposing a fragility of a civilised society. It is tempting go hiding in our own privileged bubbles, unable to take in more evil madness.

bubbles_93In my own privileged world, I have also seen many examples of social media bubbles full of friendship and support, not only with families and friends, but also bubbles with teachers sharing ideas, materials, joys and concerns in Facebook groups, asking for help and getting supported, with discussions involving teachers from preschool to university. These bubbles provide a glimpse into the very different realities across the school system, but also offering opportunities.

During 2016, our Physics Education Resource Centre has also run two conferences, attempting to bring bubbles of research and practice in closer contact, for physics teaching across the education system, and for science in preschool. I have been in bubbles of roller coaster enthusiasts, e.g. in the Wildfire at Kolmården, and at the Euro Amusement Show, and in bubbles of amusement park teachers – at Liseberg, Gröna Lund and Tivoli gardens, and presenting the project in a bubble of science communicators e.g. at Göteborg International Science Festival , and in clusters of bubbles looking into various aspects of smartphone use in teaching.

Social media can be a power for good and evil. On the eve of a new year, I wish you all bubbles rising for a better world, with more open horizons.

Happy New Year

Shadow communities

During my years as a computational atomic physicist, I sometimes noted that, while atomic theory might not have been strongly visible in the main conference program, there was often a strong shadow community finding each other in parallel sessions (in later years also at poster session), sharing results, challenges, methods, questions, challenges and successes.

In amusement parks, the technicians are often invisble – showing up only when something goes wrong. Technical details about rides are often hard or impossible to find on park www-sites. E.g. the wonderful story about how Gröna Lund got its wild mouse roller coaster can only be read at CoastersAndMore.de. And when technical details sometimes appear, as they did when Kanonen opened at Liseberg in 2005, they run a strong risk of disappearing with the next www update. Again, details can be found at CoastersAndMore.de but not at liseberg.se. (In any case, the next year will also be the last year that Kanonen is running).

TeknikbordDuring the Edutainment Days at Gröna Lund 15-16 September 2016, a total of 9 technicians come out of their hiding, proudly presenting e.g. wheels, chains, brakes, anti-rollback devices, tools, hydraulics and pneumatics, and sensors, but also illustrations of textbook concepts, such as the lever used to lift 700 kg Jetline engine, to the nearly 6000 teenagers who studied physics and technology in the park during these two days.

Also during the recent Euro Amusement Show in Barcelona, the technology aspects were hidden apart from a few exhibits. However I found that the Safety Institute was an occasion to discover a shadow community of people interested in amusement park technology.

Knowing a few academics provided grapevines to links to other groups of amusement park academics with resulting informal discussions about questions of joint interest. Would it be possible to find ways to link to local academic communities in connections with the trade shows? Some noted that IAAPA lacks a suitable membership category for those who are no longer students, but also without direct ties with commercial interests. Would it be possible to make these shadow communities more visible – perhaps through a “bird-of-a-feather” session? Questions for continued discussions in the little network.

Roller coaster realities

I love roller coasters. I love the feeling of forces acting on me and within my whole body, and being able to connect the real physical experience with analysis of measurements, maths, drawings, photos, videos and observations. Still, I found the Virtual reality (VR) coaster to be absolutely amazing, even standing on the ground in the Mack Rides stand at EAS15, when I reflected on the development From VR caves to augmented roller coaster reality. And I was not the only one. The numbers of VR coasters and simulations seems to have exploded between EAS16 and EAS15. In this post, I reflect on a few different realities from the EAS16 in Barcelona.

Virtual reality experiences

During the last afternoon of EAS16, I made a point of trying as many of the 3D virtual coaster experiences as possible, (skipping anything that involved shooting). I think I have to appoint the ride with Dante through Inferno at the RedRaion booth as my favourite among those I tried – a long ride, with many things happening along the way, and I could easily imagine that it would be even more amazing if the simulator chair had been replaced by a small roller coaster.

A close second would be the renewed encounter with the Kolmården Wildfire as a 3D movie experience from MovEmotions, even without the moving seats.

For fun, I also took my phone along in one virtual coasters, to collect accelerometer data using the Physics Toolbox Suite, well aware that a virtual heartline roll would not show up in the data – and the graph is too boring to show.dof

Having come that far in my reflections on the built-in shortcoming of virtual coasters, I discovered the robot-VR, where even the heartline roll would feel real. The queues were long, and I still have slightly queasy memories from Tom Tits science centre close to Stockholm where I rode all 6 programs of the rotor (without VR glasses), followed by a tour in the Rotor – all with a WDSS for data taking.


Augmented reality

Combining a small real roller coaster with virtual reality opens many new possibilities for story telling – I could well imagine Dante’s Inferno tour being used like that to give a completely amazing experience. In these cases, the real experience is enhanced – augmented by the visual feed through the glasses

In a session Renew and revitalize – it doesn’t always have to be new Peggy Vereld from Bobbejaanland told about the VR addition to convert an existing coaster Revolution to a new scary immersive experience Mount Mara, and how it was received by guests as a truly new experience. For increased flow in the summertime, they were running alternating versions, both with and without the VR glasses.

Artificial realities.

Having read all the Asterix books, I love visiting Parc Asterix, discovering all the little quirky details bringing the 2D images from the book to an inspiring 3D reality.

I also love the way desingers create new environments, mixing authentic historical tools with creative imagination, as e.g. in the Kållerado or Mechanica at Liseberg or the Wildfire at Kolmården.

However, I was really frustrated by a long talk at the EAS16, which was more of a sales pitch about how to make the TeleTubbies into an artifical 3D world, with lots of merchandise to sell. The learning claims related to the program seem to be somewhat dubious, as discussed e.g. in an early analysis: “The fact that children like something, or parents think they do, does not mean that it is educational, or even good for them. Children like candy, too.” Later research investigated whether young children could learn vocabulary from TV, and found little supporting evidence.


Har Kupers, Vekoma, during the Safety Institute

Biomechanical realitiesdavid_portaventura

Before the opening of the EAS, I took part in the Safety Institute at the PortAventura world. A fascinating day, with quite a lot of enjoyable technical detail. The only disappointment was that I missed out on riding any of the coasters.  I participated following a recommendation by David Eager (who did manage to sneak away to ride the Shambhala). We had the joy during EAS16 to have our second joint paper (Beyond velority and acceleration: jerk, snap and higher derivatives) accepted in the European Journal of Physics (Our first, on Trampolines, was selected as one of the highlights 2015 in Physics Education.)

Economical realities

In a fascinating session Renew and revitalize – it doesn’t always have to be new, Jakob Wahl talked about how Europa Park encouraged people to multiple visits, e.g. by expanding the number of seasons, and thematic weeks and Peggy Verels from Bobbejaanland talked about  the benefits of adding VR to an existing coaster .

In a long afternoon session The Art of Storytelling and Creation, with New and Existing IP Margreet Papamichael started by showing numbers for different parks and brands, showing how parks benefited from Multi-gated resources (where additional gates could, e.g., be another park, a hotel, a water park or a conference center) and indications that entertainment value – price per hours that guests are paying/willing to pay – increased with more “gates”.

Numbers are always fascinating, and I also recall with much joy a talk from EAS15, where Pieter Cornelis demonstrated that it was possible to make quantitative models on return of investments in roller coasters and other rides.

Economic realities also influence educational programs, that come in many different shapes, as discussed in the session on The A to Z of B2B: How to Develop Edutainment Opportunities.