Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
A boomerang is a curved, usually wooden, device which is thrown. A boomerang spins as it flies through the air, and can travel long distances. A boomerang is designed to, when thrown correctly, fly in a curved path to return to the person who threw it.
'To boomerang' has entered English language, meaning akin to 'backfire' as in: 'this plan could very well boomerang on us'.
Boomerang-like devices, including hunting sticks, have been used all over the world for hunting, religious and recreational activities. Their origin is still not fully clear. Research has shown that ancient tribes in Europe used special throwing axes. Also, in ancient Egypt a special type of stick was exclusively used by the pharaohs for hunting birds. However, the world famous "country of the boomerang" is Australia, where the Australian Aborigines have used both boomerangs and hunting sticks for thousands of years.
Note that the word "boomerang" automatically implies it is returning; a hunting, or throwing, stick is a different thing, and the two terms should not be used interchangeably. There is little to no evidence that boomerangs were used as hunting tools.
Today, boomerangs are most often used as sporting items. There are different types of throwing contests—speed, accuracy of return, maximum time aloft, endurance (number of catches in 5 minutes of throwing), trick catch and distance. The modern sport boomerang (often referred to as a 'boom' or 'rang', is made of Finnish hardwood, plywood, plastic or composite materials and comes in many different shapes and colors. Most sport boomerangs weigh notably less than 100 grams, with maximum time aloft boomerangs often under 25 grams.
Competitions and Records
In international competition, a world cup is held every second year, with teams from Germany and the United States dominating international competition. The individual World Champion title was won in 2000, 2002 and 2004 by Swiss thrower Manuel Schütz.
World records include 80 catches in 5 minutes (the 'Endurance' event), 5 catches in 14.60 seconds (the 'Fast Catch' event -- at the other extreme is the slowest time recorded in the fast catch: 5 catches in 1 minute, 8.9 seconds), 'Maximum Time Aloft' times of more than a minute, and a 'Long Distance' record of 238 metres after which the boomerang flew back accurately to the thrower. In each of these contested events, a differently-designed boomerang is used. For instance, in Fast Catch, the boomerang is designed so as to travel very quickly in a low, circular trajectory, returning to be caught in as little time as possible. In the Long Distance event, the boomerang is usually somewhat heavy, and the airfoils on its wings are carved so as to produce very little lift and drag, which results in a long 'teardrop' shaped flight path.
Returning boomerangs consist of two, or more arms or wings, connected at an angle. Each wing is shaped as an airfoil, air travels faster over one surface of an airfoil than the other, as it follows the longer path, thus creating lift, along what is roughly a plane which intersects the airfoil at a near right angle along the long axis of the wing.
These wings are set so that the lift created by each wing opposes the lift of the other, but at an angle such that the flight pattern is constantly shifted as the forces of lift, drag, speed, rotational inertia etc. 'attempt' to reach equilibrium, see Boomerang engineer.
This is what makes the boomerang 'return gracefully to the hurler, fluttering to a stop in his hand'... when thrown correctly. This is also what makes the boomerang 'rocket straight up into the air before plunging to its shattered doom'... when thrown incorrectly. With the exception of long-distance boomerangs, they should not be thrown sidearm or like a frisbee, but rather almost vertically.
Fast Catch boomerangs usually have three symmetrical wings (in the planform view), whereas a Long Distance boomerang is most often shaped very similar to a question mark. Maximum Time Aloft boomerangs have one wing considerably longer than the other. This feature, along with carefully executed bends and twists in the wings, help to set up an 'auto-rotation' effect to maximize the boomerang's hover-time in descending from its highest point in the flight.
Prominent boomerang designer/builders include Bob Burwell from Australia, Rusty Harding from the USA, Jerri Leu from Brazil and others.
- There are many injected plastic molds in the world but the most famous and used are the Tri-Fly from Eric Darnell (USA) and the LMI&FOX Models (France).
- The boomerang sport in Brazil is growing fast with many news: special plywood created for boomerangs (BWoods), Kellogg's company inserting five million boomerangs in cereal boxes, and the First Pan-American Championship set for August 2005.
- The most famous seller in the world is "The Boomerang Man", Richard Harrison. Since 1975 he has introduced thousands of new throwers to the sport.
- The next World Championship will be held in Asahikawa, Japan, in 2006.
- While fiercely competitive, almost all throwers are amateurs in the sense that they do not receive money as prizes.
- The International Federation of Boomerang Associations (IFBA) was officially launched in 2004 at the World Championships in France.
"Remember, you are the target!" a traditional warning to beginning hurlers.
A Kylie is one of the Aboriginal words for the hunting stick used in warfare and for hunting animals. Instead of following a curved flight path, it flies in a straight line from the thrower. They are typically much larger than boomerangs. It can travel very long distances, and due to its size and hook shape can cripple or kill an animal. The word is perhaps an English corruption of a word meaning boomerang taken from one of the Western Desert languages, for example, the Warlpiri word karli.
- Boomerang Association of Australia: What is a Boomerang?
- Boomerang Association of Australia: Boomerang Competition Events
- Boomerang Association of Australia: Boomerang Glossary
- International Federation of Boomerang Associations
- Further information, and vídeos, to download
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