In this Ask Smithsonian video, Dr. Eric Schulze explains how boomerangs work. (Smithsonian/Thinkstock)
How do boomerangs work?
August 12, 2015
You asked us, "How do boomerangs work?"
There are actually two types of boomerangs. One 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. That stabilizes their motion. It allows them to travel farther and with greater accuracy than a straight stick.
That's exactly what makes the non-returning boomerang a deadly hunting weapon.
They've been used in Australia, ancient Egypt and even Poland. The earliest ones date back more than 20 thousand years.
But coming back around to your question, how does the returning boomerang return?
Well, its wings are slightly rotated and have an airfoil design. This 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