“Beer Mats Make Bad Frisbees,” Johann Ostmeyer, Christoph Schürmann, Carsten Urbach, arXiv 2106.08238, 2021. (Thanks to Mason Porter for bringing this to our attention.) the authors, at the University of Bonn and at the Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie, Germany, explain:
In this article we show why flying and rotating beer mats, CDs, or other flat disks will eventually flip in the air and end up flying with backspin, thus, making them unusable as frisbees. The crucial effect responsible for the flipping is found to be the lift attacking not in the center of mass but slightly offset to the forward edge. This induces a torque leading to a precession towards backspin orientation. An effective theory is developed providing an approximate solution for the disk’s trajectory with a minimal set of parameters. Our theoretical results are confronted with experimental results obtained using a beer mat shooting apparatus and a high speed camera. Very good agreement is found.