'Run like hell,' screams every cell in your body when you are faced with a physically precarious predicament. Either that or stand still and square up to the threat. This fight-or-flight reaction is triggered by a tidal wave of adrenalin that pumps through your veins when you feel challenged. So, the prospect of plunging 420 feet at a 90-degree angle, travelling at more than 100 miles an hour, should not, repeat not, tempt any sane member of the species homo sapiens.
To hardcore thrill-seekers chasing the next adrenalin rush, though, the $25 million Top Thrill Dragster - 'the tallest and fastest rollercoaster in the universe' - in the American amusement park CedarPoint, is heaven. The ride accelerates from 0-120mph in four seconds - that's as fast as a Formula One car - and the track twists through 270 degrees. It's enough to make you vomit. Europe's best is the £12 million Pepsi Max Big One at Blackpool Pleasure Beach (pictured below), which peaks at 235 feet and runs at 85 mph.
The origins of the rollercoaster can be traced back to Russian ice slides of the 1700s. An enterprising Frenchman took the idea and tailored it to a warmer climate by building a wooden all-weather version. It proved a success, though America's 1895 Flip Flap Railway definitely did not. Its loop-the-loop design produced so much G-force that riders' necks snapped.