How do boomerangs work? In this Ask Smithsonian video, Dr. Eric Schulze explains how boomerangs work. (Smithsonian/Thinkstock)
How do boomerangs work?
Lexile

You asked us, "How do boomerangs work?"
 
There are actually two types of boomerangs, one that flies in a circular path and can knock you out cold and the other is the non-returning boomerang.
 
Both have at least two wings that meet at an angle.
 
When thrown, the bent shape causes the 'rangs' to spin around a central point, stabilizing their motion and allowing them to travel farther and with greater accuracy than a straight stick.
 
That's exactly what makes the non-returning boomerang a lethal hunting weapon and they've been used in Australia, ancient Egypt and even Poland, where the earliest ones date back more than 20 thousand years.
 
But coming back around [wink, wink] to your question, how does the returning boomerang return?
 
Well, its wings are slightly rotated and have an airfoil design, which generates twist, creating a curved flight path and sending that puppy home.
 
The returning boomerang is actually harder to throw on target, so it's been used more for fun than hunting.
 
Fun must have been what those ancient Egyptians had in mind when they stored a few in King Tut's tomb.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
How does the bent shape help the boomerang move?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (2)
  • Eric0221-YYCA
    10/12/2015 - 09:36 p.m.

    I think that it is cool for a boomerang to be two different types which the first one is a lethal-weapon that can easily knock a person out cold and another kind of boomerang that will never return to the person that threw the boomerang. The boomerang that can never return was used as a hunting weapon to animals but it is harder to hit the target from far away from the animal that the person is going to hunt for.

  • alyssak-day
    10/21/2015 - 01:59 p.m.

    TT:10
    I find this quite interesting. As a child i remember seeing people use boomerangs on TV all of the time, but i never quite understood how the boomerangs came back to the thrower. Apparently the non-returning boomerang is quite lethal. For the boomerang to return,its wings keep it in motion and creates a path to send it back to where it returned.

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