What's missing from this list? That's an easy one: roller coasters. Wheeled versions of this thrill ride have been around since the late 1700s, when a track with gently sloping hills was constructed in St. Petersburg, Russia. But it was the introduction of tubular steel tracks in 1959 that made it possible for cars to flip upside down, shoot through corkscrews and rocket straight up and down again [source: Carnegie Magazine]. In other words, this technological advancement turned roller coasters into the gut-wrenching amusement park rides we all know and (some of us) love.
So, which coaster is the biggest and baddest around? A good contender for this title is the Kingda Ka at the Six Flags Great Adventure theme park in Jackson, N.J.; it's the tallest and the second fastest roller coaster in the world. Here's the kind of ride you can expect: First, you're thrust forward down a horizontal track, going from 0 to a blistering speed of 128 miles per hour (206 kilometers per hour) in just 3.5 seconds. You then take an abrupt 90-degree turn upward, rocketing to a height of 465 feet (139 meters) before immediately plummeting 418 feet (127 meters) in a 270-degree spiral. Once horizontal again, you blaze across a 129-foot (39-meter) hump on which you briefly experience weightlessness. Finally, you roll to a stop at the end of the 3,118-foot (950-meter) track just 59 seconds after you started [source: Six Flags]. If that doesn't make your stomach drop, then nothing will!
Author's Note: 5 Adventures That'll Make Your Stomach Drop
In an era where danger has largely been fenced and padded out of our society, there's something appealing about experiences that test your body's limits. I mean, what could make you more aware of life than doing something that seems like it could so easily result in death? To be fair, the adventures described in this article are quite safe, but I'm not sure I could convince myself of that while being launched into the air by the Slingshot or hurtled towards the ground in a nose-diving stunt plane!
- Aerobatic Experience. Homepage. 2012. (June 26, 2012) http://www.aerobaticexperience.com/index.asp
- A.J. Hackett Macau Tower. Homepage. 2010. (June 26, 2012) http://macau.ajhackett.com/
- Carnegie Magazine. "Scream Machines: The Science of Roller Coasters." September/October 2000. (June 26, 2012) http://www.carnegiemuseums.org/cmag/bk_issue/2000/sepoct/feat4.html
- CNN Tech. "Kingda Ka: The Ultimate Roller-Coaster." October 12, 2005. (June 26, 2012) http://articles.cnn.com/2005-09-30/tech/ultimate.rollercoaster_1_coaster-zombies-roller-coaster-top-thrill-dragster?_s=PM:TECH
- DeRusha, Jason. "Good Question: Why Does Your Stomach Drop on a Roller Coaster?" CBS Minnesota. May 16, 2012. (June 26, 2012) http://minnesota.cbslocal.com/2012/05/16/good-question-why-does-your-stomach-drop-on-a-roller-coaster/
- Federal Aviation Administration. "Acceleration in Aviation: G Force." (June 26, 2012)www.faa.gov/pilots/safety/pilotsafetybrochures/media/Acceleration.pdf
- Ferrari World. "Formula Rossa." 2012. (June 26, 2012) http://www.ferrariworldabudhabi.com/en-gb/attractions/formula-rossa.aspx
- Funtime Group. "Slingshot." 2008. (June 26, 2012) http://www.funtime.com.au/data/index1.htm
- Guinness Book of World Records. "Highest Bungee Jump." 2012. (June 26, 2012) http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/1/highest-bungee-jump
- Lee, Mike. "Land Divers of Vanuatu." ABC News. July 25, 2006. (June 26, 2012) http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/story?id=130132&page=1#.T_E5x3BHtaF
- NASA. "Zero-Gravity Plane on Final Flight." October 29, 2004. (June 26, 2012) http://www.nasa.gov/vision/space/preparingtravel/kc135onfinal.html
- Six Flags. "Kingda Ka." 2012. (June 26, 2012) http://www.sixflags.com/greatAdventure/rides/Kingdaka.aspx
- Sky Thrills!. Homepage. 2012. (June 26, 2012) http://www.skythrills.com/index.html
- StL Bungy, Inc. Homepage. 2012. (June 26, 2012) http://www.balloonbungee.com/
- Tyson, Peter. "All About G Forces." NOVA. November 1, 2007. (June 26, 2012) http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/space/gravity-forces.html
- UK Bungee Club. "Safety Information." 2012. (June 26, 2012) http://www.ukbungee.co.uk/content/14/safety-information
- Zero G. Homepage. 2008. (June 26, 2012) http://www.gozerog.com/index.cfm
HowStuffWorks hikes El Caminito del Rey, a very dangerous hiking path in Spain that was closed to the public for 15 years after several deaths.