Why Do Boomerangs Come Back?


Humans have been using boomerangs for at least 20,000 years. The ancient Polish used them to hunt animals, King Tut had a collection of them, and of course they’re an Australian icon. There are lots of different kinds of boomerangs and many of them, like the ones used for hunting, aren’t meant to return, they just fly very precisely. And even the boomerangs that are designed to come back to you are very hard to use. But if you do it right, you can use aerodynamics to get a boomerang to land neatly in your hands It works because you’re sending the boomerang spinning off at an angle, but you’re also launching it forward, so it ends up with two speeds a rotating speed and a forward speed. When combined with the exact shape of the boomerang, the combination of those two types of speeds makes it turn in a circle as it flies Boomerangs have two wings that connect at an angle and they’re each shaped just like an airplane’s wing in what’s known as an airfoil they have a rounder blunter edge, called a leading edge and a sharp tapered edge, called a trailing edge and the bottom of the wing is flat while the top is beveled When air strikes an airfoil, it goes over the leading edge and pushes downwards off the trailing edge creating a downwards force of air since every action has an equal and opposite reaction, this downward force of air off the wing pushes that wing in the opposite direction generating lift And the faster an airfoil moves through the air, the more lift it gets Boomerangs only work when they’re thrown at an angle with your arm around twenty degrees away from the top of your head you flick your wrist so it spins through the air like a propeller So one wing will be at the top of each spin and the other will be at the bottom When one wing reaches the top of the spin, it’s both moving forward and rotating forward and that means it’s going faster and generating more lift than the bottom wing which is rotating in the opposite direction of the forward movement this unbalancing of forces, called torque, causes the boomerang to tilt and follow a curved path the circles can be very large or very tight, depending on how fast the boomerang is traveling and at what angle which is why even if you send it spinning through the air, it takes some skill to get that boomerang to land softly in your hands, and not over the fence in your neighbor’s yard This question was asked by our Patreon patron Jordan Francisco so thank you for the question and thank you to all of our Patreon patrons who keep these answers coming If you would like to submit a question to be answered, you can go to Patreon.com/scishow And if you want to keep getting smarter with us, just go to YouTube.com/scishow and subscribe

100 thoughts on “Why Do Boomerangs Come Back?

  1. The original boomerang was 4 winged, and had more wings to make it fly straighter and farther, but since a 4 winged boomerang can come back very easily, it must have been amazing when the Aboriginal tribes saw the thing come back. The returning aspect is very useful; boomerangs were used to knock animals out of the sky, like birds. If you miss, then the rang comes back to you, where as other hunters were busy looking for all their arrows.

  2. Ever have one of those moments where you're just like, "Humanity, what the hell were you on to make this work?"

  3. So we figured out aerodynamics 20000 years ago… Yet it took us until 1970-ish to build airplanes… K'

  4. the actual original boomerang didn't actually come back, the ones that come back are just a modern marketing scheme

  5. I always loved that boomerangs were kind of hard to get them to come back because my neighbors used to throw their boomerangs into my back yard when I was a kid. Then I would pretend to throw them back and it would come back to me and we'd have a game.

  6. This begs another question: Are boomerangs "handed" or ambidextrous? Does it matter which hand I use to throw it?

  7. People would believe you more if you said god did it and called it alternative facts. The masses are not going to question regardless. 🙂

  8. Hank, you rock! I love Sci Show! Thanks to all the hosts as well as everybody who makes this possible.

  9. well i just saw some vids from Victor Poulin so i came to scishow for an explanation and i was not disappointed

  10. What part of the boomerang does lift come from/ hit because my tech ed teacher won't let me build a boomerang until I answer these questions correctly someone please respond quickly

  11. That's not how the airfoil works.

    If it was due to an "equal and opposite reaction" as you say, then the upward force and the downward force would be equal: there would be no lateral movement of the airfoil, or boomerang.

    The real reason for the generation of lift is the conservation of energy, as laid out in the Bernoulli equation.

    To put it in layman's terms, the energy in the system of a fluid is always conserved, but the form of that energy can change. It is expressible as either velocity, pressure, or elevation(gravitational potential energy). As the air (or fluid) slides over the top of the airfoil, the air gains a vertical velocity component as well as a horizontal velocity component. Hence there is a greater fluid velocity at this point. As the elevation within this point's frame of reference isn't changing, the increase in velocity is accompanied by a decrease in the pressure of the fluid at that point. By contrast, the bottom side of the airfoil isn't experiencing a velocity change, so its pressure remains constant, therefore greater. Hence there is a pressure differential across the wing. This is the cause of the airfoil rising.

  12. I thought it was used to stun enemies, retrieve items, and trigger switches.
    Give me back the Boomerang, I beg you! I'll return the item you gave to me!

  13. Tamil ppl go Australia in ship long time cos of that they got an this weapon found Tamil ppl cos Tamil 20k older language

  14. Triple finned boomerangs work better and they use slight twists in the ends to give you a larger or small turning circle. I got one made of a dense foam that that holds the twists on the ends

  15. That’s exactly what happened I was 9 years old I had this plastic boomerang I got in a kids meal from Wendy’s I went outside to try it but then landed in my neighbour’s backyard

  16. When it comes to aerodynamics and flying NOBODY actually knows how it works, so they come up with these explanations… not even plane manufacturers… they just follow a certain path that's traditionally proven to work

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