Carousel … Draaimolen … Merry-go-round

Alkmaar: Annual Fair - Kaaskoppenstad, The Netherlands

Alkmaar: Annual Fair – Kaaskoppenstad, The Netherlands

What do you see….

When you see a merry-go-round, what comes to your mind…. When I see a merry-go-round, I see fun, but I also see complex dynamics. You see…, a merry-go-round is like spinning an umbrella in your hand for example during a storm.   There are vertical forces applied to hold it up; There are horizontal forces applied to prevent it from swinging too far to the side; There are shear and other pivotal forces applied to keep it from flying away or angling; Then there are more complex forces applied to get the raindrops flying, and definitely not directly downward! Now, swap the raindrops for kids and you have an idea of how intricately  it is designed and how delicately it spins yet it keeps the children happy and safe.   In the olden days, somewhere in the Middle East, horsemen had a game where they galloped in circles while tossing balls from one horseman to another. This evolved to tossing spears at rings overhead. All this as a military training for conditioning purposes. Platform carousels with animal seats or chariots emerged in the mid-19th century and became a fad in Europe. Unfortunately the only available sort-of-detailed information on the merry-go-round’s history, at the moment of writing this, is Wikipedia: The one in the picture above consists of hanging seats and is manually operation by a team at the centre pole. That means the design of it is much more complicated than the one with chariots or seats on the platform. Next time you pass one, or put your kids in one, take time to think about the forces at play and appreciate the designer, engineer and ticket price!

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