Science Tuesday: Bat Crazy for The Batarang

By Chris Lisinski, Staff Writer
@chrislisinski

Question: Who is the best superhero?

You’re wrong. It’s Batman.

I know, I’ve heard all the arguments about how he doesn’t have superpowers, but doesn’t that make him more interesting? Watching Superman punch baddies over and over again without any threat gets boring. Batman is vulnerable and from this world, and that makes him easy to connect with.

Speaking of his human side, he’s also a role model for those of us with comic book inclinations, and expert boomerang-maker Victor Poulin has taken one step closer to becoming Batman: he successfully created a Batarang that actually circles back around when you throw it.

Poulin has already made some pretty fascinating products, including a tomahawk-looking boomerang and one that is almost as tall as he is, but he unveiled his recent bat-related throwing device in this Jan. 24 video on his YouTube account:

In the video, Poulin is standing alone in a snowy field. I like to imagine that field as high in the Himalayas near the secret hideout of the League of Shadows (unfortunately, Liam Neeson is nowhere to be found).

The batarang in the video is quite large, measuring a full 25.25 inches from the left edge to the right edge. It is made of 10-ply Finnish birch, and Poulin put in the effort to paint it black like the eternal night in which Batman resides.

He demonstrates the batarang, then hurls it out into the wilderness. You’ll have to use your imagination and pretend that the batarang smacks Mr. Freeze in the head during its flight. 

It disappears for a bit, and then BANG! It’s right back in his hand, albeit not from the flight pattern he quite expected.

It’s quite a fascinating process all made possible by science. Most returning boomerangs fly in a circular process away and back to the thrower, and they are essentially wings with the same design properties as you would find on plane wings.

Two of the edges of the boomerang are rounded off and the other two are flat, which is known as an airfoil. The curvature of the wing causes the streamlines of the air to curve, and this lowers the pressure on the top of the wing.

If you remember anything from high school science — air flows from high pressure to low pressure (just as heat moves from high temperature to low temperature), so when the air flows from the high-pressure area below the wing to the low-pressure area above the wing, it causes lift and allows flight.

But why does the boomerang turn around and come back? It wouldn’t be so prudent a weapon if Batman had to restock every time he used a batarang, even if he is filthy rich.

When you throw a boomerang properly, the “top” wing, or top half, actually flies through the air at a higher rate of speed because it is spinning forward in addition to flying forward, according to a HowStuffWorks article on the subject. This creates a “constant force” on the top of the boomerang, and, long story short, when there is a constant force on top, it is actually felt 90 degrees to the side, which forces the boomerang to turn constantly.

In case you were wondering/looking for a birthday gift for me, Poulin sells a smaller 7-inch batarang on his website. It will only set you back about $55, which, let’s be honest, is the most worthwhile expenditure you will make in your entire college career.

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