The Physics of Boomerangs

The Physics of Boomerangs

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This learning video explores the mysterious physics behind boomerangs and other rapidly spinning objects. Students will get to make and throw their own boomerangs between video segments! A key idea presented is how torque causes the precession of angular momentum. One class period is required to complete this learning video, and the optimal prerequisites are a familiarity with forces, Newton’s laws, vectors and time derivatives. Each student would need the following materials for boomerang construction: cardboard (roughly the size of a postcard), ruler, pencil/pen, scissors, protractor, and a stapler.

Instructor Biography

Darren is the Science Samurai. He is currently a graduate student in theoretical physics at the University of Oxford under the supervision of Professor John Chalker. He has worked for the Singapore Ministry of Education as a physics lecturer and tutor in Pioneer Junior College, and also as a Senior Head (Policy) in the Higher Education Division.

Additional Online Resources

“Unspinning the Boomerang: The Maths and Physics of a Boomerang.” A comprehensive presentation of the Boomerang, presented by +Plus Magazine: Living Mathematics

Walter Lewin’s BLOSSOMS video – “Ice Skater’s Delight: The Conservation of Angular Momentum”

A fascinating presentation of the Gyrocompass as a real world application of Gyroscopes.

How to make and throw Boomerangs, from Google Books.

Wikipedia selections on Boomerangs and associated phenomenon.

This site presents an MIT Physics demonstration of a bicycle wheel gyroscope.