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Escalator Spin (also known as “Escalopter”) is a series of YouTube videos featuring individuals lying down in between two escalator rails moving in opposite direction, which results in perpetual rotation of the subject caused by centripetal force and friction against the rubber surface. This phenomenon is not to be confused with Asiacopter, a stop-motion GIF series that began on YTMND in July 2005.
Early examples of “Escalator Spin” videos began to surface on YouTube sometime in July 2006. But, as one can see from the view counts and other statistics, these videos attracted relatively low viewcounts (less than 50,000 views for the most-viewed instance).
Then on June 18th, 2008, a video clip titled “Pretty blond girl spinning on an escalator” was posted on Bofunk.com. The watermarked video was then subsequently featured on Youtube:
The attractive-looking girl’s escalator spinning video drew mass appeal from the YouTube audience as well as other blogs and video-sharing communities, such as Gizmodo, I-am-Bored and Videosift. The videos even spawned some GIF derivatives on YTMND.
Escalopter Videos in Germany
The mindless pastime eventually became an international phenomenon, drawing participation from YouTubers in Europe and Asia as well. In October 2008, a German YouTuber madassk created a single topic blog for sharing Escalator Spin videos under the domain name of Escalopter.com. Some days later, the first Urban Dictionary definition for the term “Escalopter” was registered:
The novel activity executed on an escalator, whereby subject lies rigid with mid to lower back touching both handrails moving in opposing directions, and spinning slowly around in place.
Centripetal Force & Uniform Circular Motion
diagram illustrating how centripetal force works
In physics, the mechanism behind “Escalator Spinning” can be explained in terms of centripetal force and uniform circular motion. Based on Issac Newton’s 2nd Law, centripetal force is a force that makes a body follow a curved path, directed inward towards the center of curvature. Applying this center-oriented force along with surface friction, one can reach a state of uniform circular motion, during which the body traverses a circular path at a constant speed.
diagram illustrating how centrifugal force works
However, there’s always a reason to be careful in attempting “Escalator Spin.” This centripetal force that keeps the body spinning in circular motion also comes with a treacherous counterpart that may throw the subject off-rails instantly, which is known as “reactive centrifugal force.”