What is a Boomerang?

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A boomerang is a throwing tool, typically constructed as an asymmetrical airfoil on the top surface and flat on the bottom, that is designed to spin about an axis perpendicular to the direction of its flight.

The boomerang is the first man-made flying machine, and so it is the direct predecessor of the airplane, helicopter, blimp — even the space shuttle! It is amazing that a chunk of wood can make such effective use of complex principles of physics — so amazing that it seems like magic until you understand what’s happening. The boomerang is a great learning tool for anyone interested in physics, and it is certainly one of the most remarkable toys in history. A returning boomerang is designed to return to the thrower. While most of us would imagine that a boomerang’s curve is essential for its flying properties, less well-known is that the surface shape of a boomerang’s arms are just as important.

 

Boomerang - Vivek Montrose
                                                      Boomerang

Boomeranging is an amazing demonstration of scientific principles as well as a terrific sport everyone can enjoy.

The main technological secret of the boomerang is not its curve, but the surface shape of its arms. When we talk about boomerangs, we usually mean the curved devices that return to you when you throw them, but there are two different kinds of boomerangs. The kind we’re all familiar with, returning boomerangs, are specially crafted, lightweight pieces of wood, plastic or other material. Traditionally, these are two wings connected together in one banana-shaped unit, but you can find some different boomerang designs available these days, some with three or more wings. Most boomerangs measure 1 to 2 feet (30 to 60 cm) across, but there are larger and smaller varieties. When thrown correctly, a returning boomerang flies through the air in a circular path and arrives back at its starting point.

Boomerangs are not suited for hunting — they are very hard to aim, and actually hitting a target would stop them from returning to the thrower, pretty much defeating the purpose of the design.

 

how to throw boomerang by Vivek Montrose
                        how to throw Boomerang by Vivek Montrose

Boomerangs evolved out of non-returning Throw Stick, Which are also curved pieces of wood, but they are usually heavier and longer, typically 3 feet (1 meter) or more across.

Non-returning Throw Stick do not have the light weight and special wing design that causes boomerangs to travel back to the thrower, but their curved shape does cause them to fly easily through the air. Non-returning Throw Stick are effective hunting weapons because they are easy to aim and they travel a good distance at a high rate of speed.