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Engineering: Using Newton's Laws of Motion

Author(s): Gregory L. Vogt, EdD, Barbara Z. Tharp, MS, Michael T. Vu, MS, and Nancy P. Moreno, PhD.

Boomerangs: Spinning Wings

Most students may envision boomerangs as wooden throwing sticks, but these fascinating flying devices can be made of many different materials, including metal, plastic and even paper. Some boomerangs are designed to return, but others do not. Both tools have been used for millennia.

The non-returning boomerang goes back to the Stone Age. Used as a throwing stick for hunting, it was shaped to travel long distances on a very straight flight path. Versions of the non-returning boomerang were used in Europe, Australia and Egypt, and among some western Native American tribes.

The returning boomerang was raised to a high art by the Australian Aborigines. It was used for hunting, and as a battle club, musical instrument and even fire-starter. Hunters would throw returning boomerangs near roosting birds, seeking to scare them into flight so they could be caught in nets. Hunters also would throw boomerangs through flocks of flying birds, hoping to clip a wing and bring down dinner.

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Funded by the following grant(s)

National Science Foundation

Grant Number: DRL-1028771