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Roller coasters date back 400 years

Strange but True column by Bill Sones and Rich Sones
BY BILL SONES AND RICH SONES, PH.D., For The Oklahoman Published: August 26, 2014


Q: Who invented the roller coaster and how long can you stay on one?

A: “When Russian daredevils got bored sledding down hills in the 1600s, they decided to ramp things up by building ‘flying mountains’ — elaborate five-story ice ramps with drops as steep as 50 degrees,” say Noah Davis and Lucas Reilly in Mental Floss magazine. They sledded on hollowed-out blocks of ice, but in 1804 the French added a track and wheels, though the wheels had a tendency to fly off. “By the 1840s, centrifugal railways featured the first loop-de-loops, flipping riders around a perfect circle that created G-forces three times stronger than most modern coasters.”

As to the length of a ride, Richard Rodriguez in 2007 spent 17 straight days and nights on a roller coaster in Blackpool, England — eating, drinking and sleeping there with only a five-minute break every hour to clean up and use the bathroom. Five years later, Rodriguez upped his riding time to 112 consecutive days, though he did take the night off when the park closed.

Q: Statistically speaking, there are differences between percentage rates and total numbers, differences between men and women from one country to the next and from one year to the next. Taken together, some of the numbers are encouraging, others are quite deadly. Do you get our drift here?

A: We’re talking about smoking. First, the encouraging numbers: From 1980 to 2012, global smoking rates declined from 41 percent to 31 percent among men, and from nearly 11 percent to 6 percent among women, reports Science News magazine, drawing on data from the Journal of the American Medical Association. “But because of population growth, the total number of daily smokers increased from 721 million to 967 million” — for an increase of some 246 million. And in just about every country, many more men than women still smoke.

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