The How Boomerangs work.

HOW BOOMERANGS WORK
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How do boomerangs work?



Most of us were most likely introduced to the concept of the boomerang as children as they do seem to be sticks that possess great powers and are often shown in cartoons as being used to hit someone or something and come inexplicably right back to its thrower. While this is in essence how boomerangs work, this toy is actually a finely crafted piece of science and while they do have the potential to go back exactly where they started from, it is only when they are thrown correctly that this will happen and that too is really just a matter of science. And although this stick, which we generally think of as a curved piece of wood, is the type of boomerang one usually tends to imagine when referring to them, there are two main types of boomerangs and a third, less common, type.

The first type of boomerang that was ever created was actually a non-returning boomerang. These types of boomerangs are quite heavy and measure at least 3 meters across. They move easily through the air however, because they are so heavy and large, they do not return to the owner once they are thrown. Despite this bulkiness in shape, they fly very quickly through the air and can cover a great distance. They make very good hunting weapons as the animal being hunted generally has no time for escape and the weight is quite dangerous. Returning boomerangs, which are the kind one generally thinks of, are much lighter and although these can still be crafted from wood, plastic and other materials can be used. These types of boomerangs generally have 2 wings but more modern models sometimes also have 3 wings. They are much lighter than their non-returning counterparts and usually measure only 1 to 2 feet across. The third, less common type of boomerang is the battle boomerang, which was once used in hand to hand combat.

The magic of the boomerang lies in the curved banana-like shape. This shape is created by taking two pieces of wood and joining them together so that they form one single piece of wood. The two pieces of wood are called wings and the joining component is called a central point. The wings then spin around the central point, which stabilizes the motion as they cut through the air. This is called a stabilizing effect and it is this particular effect that makes non-returning boomerangs better throwing sticks than regular straight sticks. Because of this stabilizing effect, they are able to move through the air at a much greater speed and travel a much greater distance. The wings also have what is called an airfoil design so that one side of them is completely flat while the other is slightly rounded. This is also how airplane wings are designed and just like in airplane wings, it is this design that gives the wing its lift and causes air to move much more quickly over the top of the wing than the bottom of the wing. This causes each side of the wing to have greater pressure and the pressure on the bottom is much greater than the pressure on the top.

Each wing of the boomerang has a leading edge and this is what makes it very similar to a propeller. The leading edges are always facing in the same direction and one is one the outside of one wing while one is on the inside of the other. These leading edges are attached to what is like the axis that a plane propeller has and this axis, which is really just the same central stabilizing point mentioned earlier, and this is the motion that causes the wings to spin while they travel through the air. The propeller-action is created by the forward force of the wing’s lift. Because of this spinning propeller action, it would seem that if you were to throw a boomerang the propeller would only move in one direction, as the propeller on a plane does. If you threw it straight, it would simply fly until it fell to the ground, just like a straight stick and when thrown horizontally, like a Frisbee, it would simply move forward. Throwing it vertically, which is the way a boomerang should be thrown, would simply cause the boomerang to fly to the right or the left. But this doesn’t happen because the vast difference is that unlike a plane, which has a propeller that starts while the plane is completely still, the propeller on a boomerang doesn’t start until the boomerang is thrown. Because of this, it has the force of flying through the air. While the boomerang is flying through the air, the wing that is pointing up is flying in the same direction as it was thrown. The wing on the bottom however, is moving in the opposite direction as it’s thrown. Because of this, although the wings both spin at the same speed, the top wing is moving through the air faster than the bottom. Because the top wing is moving through the air more quickly, more air passes under it and it needs to exert more pressure to push that air down as it moves.

Because the boomerang is constantly moving while it is constantly pushing this air, it creates a constant force. Unlike a stationary object that would simply fall down after being pushed at the top, because the wings are in constant motion with a boomerang, the pushing action is still being felt as the wing at the top moves to the bottom. By that time the bottom wing is now at the top and the entire cycle of pushing air begins again. It is the action of the constant force that makes boomerangs return to where they came from.

So how can this knowledge help you to throw a boomerang the right way? The first instinct that most people have when they first hold a boomerang is to throw it horizontally, like a Frisbee. However, doing so will only cause the propeller type motion to send it up into the air in a slight arc instead of gliding across the ground. Instead, the boomerang should be held vertically at a slight 15 to 20 degree angle. If there is a lot of wind, the boomerang should be held at about a 40 to 50 degree tilt to ensure that the wind will not throw the boomerang off course once it is thrown. This will pull the propeller up slightly so that it doesn’t fall straight to the ground before making a complete circle. Holding the boomerang vertically, the elbow, or the center piece that holds the wings together, should be facing towards you. The bottom of the wing should be held so that four fingers wrap around the outer part of the wing and the thumb is folded along the inside of the wing. The boomerang should be held this way assuming that the person throwing it is right-handed. Those that are left-handed should make sure that they are buying a left-handed boomerang and the way it is held will be opposite to the way that a right-handed boomerang is held.

Once you are comfortable with how you are holding the boomerang, pull the boomerang behind you and snap it forward as you let go of it. This snapping motion is very important as it provides the boomerang with its spin and without the spin the boomerang will not travel back to the thrower. Because of the force and speed of the top wing, when the boomerang does come back to you, it will most likely be lying in a horizontal position, just as a Frisbee does when you catch it. However, unlike a Frisbee, never try to catch a boomerang with just one hand as the wings will still be spinning and they can be quite dangerous. Instead, spread two hands in front of you and try to clasp the boomerang. Boomerangs fly through the air very quickly and it’s sometimes difficult to keep track of their path. However, it’s very important to make sure that you do always know where the boomerang is because if not careful, it could hit you on its return and be quite painful as well as very dangerous, especially if it’s very heavy. In case you do ever lose track of where the boomerang has gone while it’s in the air, duck and cover your head with your hands instead of trying to find it in the air. The chances are that it will find you before you find it!

Because of the great science involved and the many different components of a boomerang, throwing one, while very fun, requires a little bit of skill and an awful lot of practice before you experience the joy of the magical stick that comes back to you all on its own! And while the first several attempts may fail, keep trying as it truly is a wonderful pastime that you can enjoy all on your own!


Boomerangs.

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