Q: I remember being told that you should always throw a boomerang with your left hand. Considering that — at most — only a quarter of the population is left-handed, can that possibly be true?
Reid Setterlund, of Mascoutah
A: Yes, it is — if, that is, you’re throwing a boomerang specifically made for left-handers.
No, I’m not pulling your leg, mate. Just as there are left-handed scissors, left-handed can openers and left-handed tape measures, there are left-handed boomerangs, because in the world of these unique flying curiosities, one design definitely does not fit all.
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“Believe it or not, it does make a difference,” Rangs Boomerangs, out of Bedfordale, Western Australia, says on its website. “If you’re left-handed, you’ll find it much easier to throw a left-handed boomerang, which is designed and built to spin and circle in the opposite direction to a right-handed one.”
When you learn more about a boomerang’s construction — especially one designed to return — you’ll understand the difference. Such a boomerang is basically two wings joined at an angle of between 80 and 120 degrees and is thrown so that it rotates. This combination of rotation with the boomerang’s forward motion causes uneven lift on the wings because while one wing is rotating forward in the direction of the flight, the other wing is rotating backwards, against the direction of the flight. This means the air flow over one wing has a greater airspeed than over the other wing, Rangs says. This constant difference produces the boomerang’s curving flight.
But wait, there’s more. If you’re finding the boomerang is not coming back or otherwise not doing what it’s supposed to do, it is suggested that you bend the two wings until you get the desired result. But, as Rangs points out, everything a left-hander does has to be the mirror image of a right-hander, including the grip and the throw.
To make sure new users get the most out of their purchase, any reputable dealer will offer both models of their creations, and you should see the results the first time you throw one: A right-handed boomerang will fly in a counter-clockwise circle while a left-handed boomerang will make a clockwise circle.
It’s a development that’s been in the making for many millennia. Although now thought of as quintessentially Australian, Rangs says the oldest boomerang to date actually was found in Olazowa Cave in Poland. Made out of a mammoth tusk, it is believed to be about 30,000 years old. Even King Tutankhamun, Egypt’s famous boy pharaoh of the 14th century B.C., owned a collection of boomerangs, both those that flew straight for hunting and the returning variety.
If you’re wondering about the name, many think it was adopted for English from something that sounded like “bou-mar-rang” which the Turuwal people near Port Douglas, Australia, called their returning throw-sticks. It is believed that the boomerang was first encountered by modern Western people as they watched a tribal skirmish in 1807 near Port Arthur.
“... the white spectators were justly astonished at the dexterity and incredible force with which a bent, edged waddy resembling slightly a turkish scimytar, was thrown by Bungary, a native distinguished by his remarkable courtesy,” The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser reported on Dec. 23, 1804. “The weapon, thrown at 20 or 30 yards distance, twirled round in the air with astonishing velocity, and alighting on the right arm of one of his opponents, actually rebounded to a distance not less than 70 or 80 yards, leaving a horrible contusion behind, and exciting universal admiration.”
Hmm, sounds like a great way to get back at my editors the next time we have a dispute, so I guess I’ll have to get the one I was given in Australia out of its box and practice with the tips I found at www.rangsboomerangs.com. Here, for example is the cardinal rule of boomerang throwing: Never, ever throw your boomerang side-arm. It will climb straight up and come straight down and perhaps hit you or crash into the ground and break. So, “overhand” is the word to always remember.
Who holds the Guinness record for the “longest throw of an object with no velocity-aiding feature”? (It was a boomerang.) How far did he throw it?
Answer to Friday’s trivia: In 1965, Ryan Guyer, a Minneapolis-based inventor, had hit the big time in Toyland by developing the concept for the smash hit game Twister. Three years later, he was trying to score again with a game he called Caveman. As he envisioned it, players would throw spongy foam “rocks” at other competitors to keep them from stealing play money. But Guyer eventually realized the balls were more fun to play with by themselves so he tried to sell them as part of an indoor volleyball set. Milton Bradley rejected the idea, but in 1970, Parker Brothers began marketing the ball by itself. The result? The NERF ball, “the world’s first indoor ball.” For similar fascinating tidbits, don’t miss a chance to relive your childhood (and show your kids and grandkids what you played with) at “Toys of the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s” now through Jan. 22 at the Missouri History Museum in Forest Park. Admission is free.