MIT Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The Physics of Boomerangs

Zhiming Darren Tan
The Science Samurai 
 


Lesson vetted and approved by CPALMS

 

 

 

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.

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.   http://www2.physics.ox.ac.uk/contacts/people/tan

“Unspinning the Boomerang: The Maths and Physics of a Boomerang.” A comprehensive presentation of the Boomerang, presented by +Plus Magazine: Living Mathematics
http://plus.maths.org/issue7/features/boomerangs/index.html

Walter Lewin’s BLOSSOMS video – “Ice Skater’s Delight: The Conservation of Angular Momentum”
http://blossoms.mit.edu/videos/lessons/ice_skater%E2%80%99s_delight_conservation_angular_momentum

A fascinating presentation of the Gyrocompass as a real world application of Gyroscopes.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gyrocompass

How to make and throw Boomerangs, from Google Books.
http://books.google.com.sg/books?id=FcBPNTDWBkMC

Wikipedia selections on Boomerangs and associated phenomenon.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boomerang
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angular_momentum
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Precession
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gyroscope

This site presents an MIT Physics demonstration of a bicycle wheel gyroscope.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8H98BgRzpOM&NR=1

Title Language Format  
The Physics of Boomerangs (English, QuickTime Version) English Quicktime Download
The Physics of Boomerangs (Portuguese Subtitles, mp4) English-Portuguese SubtitlesEnglish-Portuguese Subtitles MPEG 4 Download
The Physics of Boomerangs (Hindi Voice-over, mp4) Kannada Voice-over MPEG 4 Download

What good fun! Boomerangs

SandyG (not verified)
October 10, 2012 at 4:01 pm

What good fun! Boomerangs still seem like magic even when you know the physics

I can't blievee you're not

Anonymous
November 24, 2011 at 4:45 am

I can't blievee you're not playing with me--that was so helpful.

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This Lesson is in the following clusters: Newtonian Physics

What good fun! Boomerangs

SandyG (not verified)
October 10, 2012 at 4:01 pm

What good fun! Boomerangs still seem like magic even when you know the physics

I can't blievee you're not

Anonymous
November 24, 2011 at 4:45 am

I can't blievee you're not playing with me--that was so helpful.