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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Almanac/The Ultimate Disc

Air Date: Week of

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This week, we have facts about Frisbees. It was 45 years ago that Wham-O went on the market, but the Frisbee's roots run back to the 1870s.


CURWOOD: Welcome back to Living on Earth. I’m Steve Curwood.


CURWOOD: It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a Wham-O Frisbee. Forty-five years ago, the official Wham-O Frisbee made its soaring debut onto beaches, parks and campuses across the nation.

The simple instructions of "play catch, invent games" were well-heeded and resulted in some pretty wacky Frisbee sports. Consider Ultimate Frisbee. This hybrid of soccer and football has one team passing the Frisbee down a field to score goals in the end zone, with defenders trying to stop them.

Then there’s Disk Golf, without clubs or holes. But the object is the same: hit your mark in as few tosses as possible. And it’s not just humans that fall to Frisbee fever. Canines also love to play catch with the flyer platters.

It all got its start back in the 1870s when William Russell Frisbie, owner of the Frisbie Pie Company in New Haven, Connecticut, sold pies to hungry students at Yale University. After devouring the pies, the young men would toss around the empty tin saucers yelling, "Frisbie!" to get the receiver’s attention.

The game of Frisbie-ing quickly spread across college campuses and onto California beaches. Flinging a Frisbee may seem pretty easy. But understanding the physics involved takes a big of know-how. There’s aerodynamic lift, along with the Bernoulli Principle, and gyroscopic inertia.

Swedish Frisbee fanatic Christian Sandstrom mastered them all this year in a competition in California when he set the record for an outdoor toss–820 feet. And, for this week, that’s the Living on Earth Almanac.




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