Why does a boomerang return to its thrower? What’s the science behind it?

We all know the amazing throwing-stick called the boomerang, and as a kid, we probably experienced playing with it. It has a neat design, and one of its exciting features is it will return to you after you throw it. Its unique capabilities are the reason why kids enjoy playing it, and besides children, adults also enjoy throwing this throw-tool.

The boomerang has been around for thousands of years. Although there is no specific date as to when the ancient people invented the boomerang, studies only show that it already existed for roughly 20,000 up to 50,000 years ago.

Because of this, boomerang significantly evolved from a mere product of interest to a competitive sport where several countries around the globe participate every two years. Furthermore, ancient people mainly used boomerangs as a weapon for hunting since its properties are efficient for killing small animals, as well as handicapping others. Apart from this, we can see the influence of boomerangs in our modern world, mainly in different pop culture, including television shows, movies, books, games, as well as music.

The undoubted greatness of this ancient tool is one thing we could consider as a part of our history. Although, despite its commonality, there is also a common question relating to boomerangs. Why does a boomerang return to its thrower? What is the science behind it?

There are scientific facts that explain the reason behind why the boomerang does its iconic return after you throw it in the air. As mentioned earlier, this is once a product of interest, and it is apparent that the inventor of the boomerang is somehow knowledgeable about how physics work.

In this article, we are going to find out more about how boomerangs work.

The science behind boomerangs

Let us first know the detailed structure of the boomerang. If we look at the boomerang at first, it may seem simple because it only consists of two wings connected at an angle, which somehow looks like a right angle, and one of them is a bit longer than the other. However, if we examine more in-depth the structure of boomerangs, we would notice that its wings have different forms. Its appearance is what we call the airfoil, which is pretty similar to the shape of a plane’s wings.

The airfoil is a cross-sectional shape of a wing, which means the arm is not entirely flat. Its tips are a little bent upwards on one side of each arm like those on the wings of airplanes. Each wing has two edges – the leading edge and the trailing edge. The leading edge is where we can see the upward slope, while the trailing edge is the downward tip. This design is vital to the boomerang since it is what gives the boomerang the ability to turn back after a good throw. It allows the boomerang to split the air unequally, as it moves.

Once we throw the boomerang, its wings are splitting the air while it spins, and because of the airfoil, the air is pushing downwards, which creates a lift. The lift is then responsible for the boomerang to move upwards while moving forward, considering there is an ample amount of air.

A critical factor to keep in mind is that we need to throw our boomerang at a certain angle for it to move forward at return properly.

Once the boomerang is on mid-air, its wings are doing their job. The top wing pushes the boomerang forward, while the bottom side is moving in the opposite direction, which causes it to have an unbalanced force.

This unbalanced force is what we call torque, and it is responsible for giving the spinning boomerang a tilt causing it to curve its direction. Once the boomerang bends its path, it will move forward, returning to the thrower.

The distance traveled by the boomerang and the width of the curve depends on the throw’s angle and strength.

There are several factors to consider on how to do a perfect boomerang throw. Although one thing is for sure, throwing a boomerang requires skills, which explains why there is a competitive sport for boomerangs.

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