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Boomerangs: why they come back to you



I'm sure many of us have seen boomerangs in cartoons, or movies, or in real life, and wondered what makes these seemingly magical things come back to the thrower. Well it's actually an interesting combination of things that let them always come back. First is the way it's shaped. Normally a boomerang is two fins, shaped very similarly to plane wings, that are attached at an angle. When thrown, because of their plane wing like shape, air passes more quickly above the fins than underneath, causing a lift force due to a resulting difference in air pressure. For it to come back it must be thrown at an angle close to vertical. Because the boomerang's fins are attached at an angle, this, combined with the forward motion given by the throw, results in more air hitting whichever fin is at the top of the spin at a greater rate while it's spinning, resulting in a greater lift at the top of the boomerang. But because it's rotating, this lift force acts more towards the front of the boomerang, rather than the top, turning it and giving it a circular flight path. Think of it sort of like a bike in how if you tip slightly to one side while it's moving, rather than falling over, the bike turns. Quite alot going on in such a seemingly simple object


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