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Do Boomerangs Work in Space? Ask a Japanese Astronaut!

Unidentified Fun ObjectUnidentified Fun Object
Can a boomerang do in zero gravity what boomerangs do down here on Earth? We're going to find out! Takeo Doi intends to test the theory once he arrives at the new, Japanese-made "Kibo" science module on a scheduled mission this March. You see, spaceflight isn't all rocket science!



Doi will be following in the footsteps of another Japanese astro-fun pioneer, Mamoru Mori. As Japan's first astronaut to reach Earth orbit, Mori claimed a place in orbital out-there-ness by flying a paper airplane inside the space shuttle on his 1992 flight. And, as related in a recent article of mine, a Japanese team is planning to fly a paper airplane back to Earth from the ISS. Lest one think the Japanese have cornered the market on space silliness, I'll mention here that Swedish astronaut Christer Fuglesang flew a Frisbee inside the ISS during his 2006 visit. Yes, both airplane and Frisbee flew flawlessly.

Examples of the boomerangs Doi will test on the ISSExamples of the boomerangs Doi will test on the ISS
Throwing a boomerang in space isn't as dangerous as it might seem. As an aerodynamic object, a boomerang thrown FROM the ISS would not circle around to break a shuttle tile, bonk a space-walking astronaut on the helmet or lodge itself in the hull of the space station -- it would keep on going in whichever direction it was thrown.

Takeo Doi in trainingTakeo Doi in training Inside the station and acted upon by air, however, it's likely the boomerang would indeed return to sender.

In fact, without gravity tugging on it, it's possible the boomerang will continue to circle for some time, unless it bumps into something. Keep your heads down, guys! I should mention that this particular boomerang is made of paper so that it won't knock out a window or worse (what could be worse??)... these ARE rocket scientists, after all! (via Mainichi News and CBC, main image via Rense.com  

Steve Levenstein     
Japanese Innovations Writer
InventorSpot.com     

Comments
Jan 24, 2008
by Chris Nichols (not verified)

Do boomers work in a vacuum?

" Ahh, Japan... land of the rising sun"..."In Japan everything is possible and possibly everything is available"..."only in Japan". Could you be any more of a clichéd baby boomer with all your "received knowledge" if you tried? Do your visits to Japan consist of searching for odd vending machines and gadgets in Akihabara? Oh, the crazy Japanese! The things they do! But the nail sticking out…

Give me a break. Do Japanese want to conform, imitate, kill themselves getting educated, come up with sheer craziness, dodge falling hammers, or sniff girls’ panties? I am just plain tired of these crap pieces on “Silliness from Japan” presented as if it were some kind of national craze. When you are not talking about very limited phenomena of the type of youth idiocy common to all societies that tolerate it (and which most Japanese lament just as much as any other peoples would), you seem to be just repeating and drawing on stereotypes that have been perpetuated for decades, stereotypes that have little basis in reality. Why is it okay to do that with Japan? Why not try it with the Dutch or Turks (random examples) for a change. Try to characterize their “psyches” and see how much credibility that earns you. Even better, add truisms from 30 and 60 years ago to that essay.

Have you ever seen weird stuff in New York? Do you present those things as representative of US culture to Canadians? I would doubt it, mostly because your fellow countrymen would know you’re full of horsepuckey. Do the rest of the world a favor and please cut it out.

Jan 24, 2008
by Steve Levenstein
Steve Levenstein's picture

Some people still don't get it...

Newsflash - Chris Nichols speaks for the rest of the world! Thank you, Chris, for taking the time to actually read my articles. What, you don't like them? Then don't read them. Freedom of choice is an amazing concept. So is stating an opinion, and i respect yours though i don't agree with it. I've been to New York several times, been to Tokyo and other Japanese cities several times as well. As a first-world nation, Japan's modern-day culture is similar to ours in many ways. Is that what you, and the rest of the world you claim to speak for, want to read about? The differences are much more interesting, not just for their perceived strangeness but 

as a way of holding up a mirror to ourselves. It can be a difficult concept to grasp (as you have

so eloquently proved) but well worth the effort. And if that effort causes you anxiety or

disturbs you in any way, don't make it.  

Jan 28, 2008
by Tom Jones (not verified)

Boomers, vacuum

I think it's easier to get the idea that in Japan some odd thing or other is a
national craze that everyone's into, because of the nature of Japan being an
island and almost totally monoracial. Other places, not so much.

Jan 28, 2008
by Steve Levenstein
Steve Levenstein's picture

Good point...

Good point, the unity of language, culture and social mores in Japan probably does set the stage for minor trends to explode, and then fade away just as quickly. Another factor may be that the government is steering people towards more recreational activity as opposed to constant overwork.

Jan 30, 2008
by Chris Nichols (not verified)

Newsflash retort (warning: long)

Mr. Levenstein,
I assume neither you nor your readers care that much, but I apologize for cheap pot shots directed specifically at you in my comments of last week. It had been building up since a CNN “Sign of the Times” piece that ticked me off and you were a convenient outlet (sorry, really). Still, the frustration I expressed there I still feel to be somewhat valid. My rant was not fair to you, but I don’t think your response to it was either. First, the “if you don’t like it then don’t read it” argument doesn’t hold water as long as you have the “post comments” feature. It isn’t just for the “LOL UR S1TE RULZ L0L” variety, is it? Second, I should have said “do me a favor”, as I don’t speak for anyone but myself. Third, I have made Japan my home for the last 14 years. I am an expat who has been through the university system here (degree and all), worked different kinds of jobs in both my native tongue and Japanese, etc., and I am well aware of the effort that has to be put into understanding the differences between cultures and the rewards gained through that effort. Such effort has always been gratifying in itself, and far from disturbing. That being said, I admire you for taking up topics, especially innovative products, that might not otherwise gain an audience in the English language press. But I can’t help but feeling that even in many of those pieces you frame them in or at least spice them up with “wink-wink those silly Japanese again” overtones. I understand your “mirror” argument as well. One point I tried to make –admittedly not very coherently- is that any nation industrialized or modernized on western models should be fair game, but the fact is that Japan is the reflector far too often in the American media, which I believe stems from a negative legacy of a history of Orientalist exoticism, US occupation, the Japanese economic “miracle”, subsequent Japan bashing, and so on. Reading an interview you gave, I got the sense that you are far more attuned to the more substantive cultural differences than you reveal in these pieces. What I mean to say is that I feel like you are adjusting the tone (downwards) for your audience, who might be more receptive to the highlighting of the superficial differences simply because of the fact that they have heard variations of them most of their lives (from their parents and grandparents) and as such perceive Japan as a more familiar and palatable mirror than, say, Malaysia. I find the substantive differences far more interesting, but with all the complementary glosses needed they would probably put most people to sleep. Still, as an expat here, I have an emotional investment that undoubtedly makes me more touchy about such things. In other words, it's not that I don't get it, I just want to get something else. And in fairness, what looks like a holier-than-thou attitude is, in general discourse, pretty thinly-rooted: I have less-than-favorable views of the French that could fill volumes, despite never having been to France nor befriended a French person; but if I had spent over a decade there I’m certain I would feel differently.

May 24, 2008
by Anonymous

boomerang

If we are to assume that "in space" = "without gravity but there's still air" then obviously the boomerang will corkscrew (tumbling end over end X amount of times for every single rotation around the axis parallel to the imaginary line drawn between both ends, appearing to follow a spiral path along the outside of an invisible cylinder) until it hits something on the other side of the space-station (or whatever will contain the air) and smashes the "go back to earth" button beyond repair.

May 24, 2008
by Anonymous

boomerang

My baaaad. Read the article.

In light of the new information I predict the same thing happens up until the boomerang hits the other side of the space station; it hits another astronaut who is doing important things and not paying attention to the boomerang experiment. He is struck in the eye and reflexively jerks backward, smacking his head on the "go back to earth" button thereby destroying it along with their chances of returning home.

Jan 1, 2009
by Anonymous

do boomerands really work?

do boomerands really work?