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.
 
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. 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


COMMENTS (12)
  • Eugene0808-YYCA
    8/26/2015 - 01:50 a.m.

    This is good to know because I never knew that there were two types of boomerangs. The non-returning one must really hurt because it does not return, it is hard, and it was used as a hunting weapon. One has to be careful with those things because they can seriously injure someone with those.
    How does the bent shape help the boomerang move?
    Answer: The bent shape helps the boomerang move by causing 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

  • Steve0620-yyca
    9/02/2015 - 01:30 a.m.

    I think that boomerang is an interesting tool. It can be dangerous but it was useful to many people like the Native Americans. The wings help it to fly and return back to you. I think that the fact that it goes back to the thrower is fascinating. I didn't know that there were two different kinds of boomerangs.

  • seanj-ver
    9/09/2015 - 02:45 p.m.

    that is interesting but what is there a certain way to through a boomerang?

  • abigailt-
    9/11/2015 - 09:06 a.m.

    That's interesting how they work! Its also cool that thing we use now (things like boomerangs) have background with king tut.

  • megann-1-mar
    9/11/2015 - 01:05 p.m.

    Really interesting how they work. I have always wondered that!

  • coltonn-mil
    9/18/2015 - 04:25 p.m.

    i found this to be very informational. i liked the fact you talked about how both boomerangs work. i also liked that one boomerang just keeps going and the other comes back. this also explains why my boomerang never comes back. thanks for the help.

  • valeriam-san
    9/21/2015 - 12:38 p.m.

    I think that the bookmaraing is a go wepon to us also i think that it will be fun to hunt with the boomaraing also play with your friends to.They said that the accent Egypt use the boomaraing to they used the to hunt and play.They also put the boomaraing in the Kings tombstone.It help the boomaraing to come back

  • ahnad-orv
    11/12/2015 - 10:17 p.m.

    That is very insightful. I had no idea that boomerangs are used in hunting. I also didn't know that boomerangs have been around since King Tut.i always thought of a boomerang as a thing you throw and it magically comes back, I didn't know there were different types of boomerangs.

  • chandlerm-hor
    11/23/2015 - 02:15 p.m.

    I think that the authors purpose is to inform us on how they are built and how they fly. Some boomerangs are made for hunting and for fun, but I would guess they were for fun. I think that most boomerangs are for fun when people buy them, but who would use them for hunting anyway. I agree with the article but how do you throw them still.

  • aidanc-hor
    12/07/2015 - 02:47 p.m.

    I never knew how Boomerangs actually worked, I thought it was just some super-complicated system of tiny machines inside of it working to make it fly.

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