If you're studying physics, there are few more exhilarating classrooms than a roller coaster. Roller coasters are driven almost entirely by basic inertial, gravitational and centripetal forces, all manipulated in the service of a great ride. Amusement parks keep upping the ante, building faster and more complex roller coasters, but the fundamental principles at work remain the same.

Photo courtesy Coaster Central
The Pepsi Max Big One, at Blackpool Pleasure Beach in Blackpool, England, has a winding track that is over 5,000 feet (1,524 meters) long.

In this edition of HowStuffWorks, we'll examine the principles that keep coaster cars flying around their tracks. We'll also look at the hardware that keeps everything running, as well as the forces that make the ride so much fun.