The Physics of Boomerangs

The Physics of Boomerangs

Lesson Feedback


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. Read more here.

Additional Online Resources

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

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

Google Books: Boomerangs - How to Make and Throw Them
How to make and throw Boomerangs, from Google Books.

Wikipedia selections on Boomerangs and associated phenomenon.
Angular momentum

YouTube: MIT Physics Demo -- Bicycle Wheel Gyroscope
This site presents an MIT Physics demonstration of a bicycle wheel gyroscope.