The Archer’s Paradox in SLOW MOTION – Smarter Every Day 136


Hey it’s me Destin, welcome back to Smarter Every Day. So in one of the last episodes, I introduced you to a legend with a longbow. He’s from my hometown and his name is Byron Ferguson. He shot an aspirin out of the air in slow-motion. But there’s something that happened in the arrow I didn’t understand. It was deflecting and it has something to do with what’s called the “archer’s paradox”. What do you think, Byron? – “The archer’s paradox is the demon for all archers, but there are ways to work around it.” Not bad! Alright, so today on Smarter Every Day, we’re gonna understand how an arrow deflects and what’s called the “archer’s paradox”. A paradox is a situation involving two things with a contradictory nature. So what is the archer’s paradox? What are the two things an archer has to deconflict? My friend John explained it to me like this. Let’s pretend that this pecan tree is the bow and this is the line of our bowstring. If we take an arrow and we put it into our bow and we draw the bow back, and we’re trying to hit that target over there, watch what happens. As we release the bowstring and it travels closer to the bow – look at that -, the fact that the bow is sitting here in our way between us and the target, causes the arrow to point off in a different direction. So how can we possibly hit that target, when our arrow is pointed over there? This is the archer’s paradox, because we know they actually do hit targets like that. Toy designers are cheaters: they don’t deal with the paradox, they just get around it. For example, the guy who designed this suction cup bow, he doesn’t go around the handle, straight through the middle. Check that out! Whoever designed this crossbow, instead of being in line with the bow itself, the string is offset by this big rail. That way, the string is always pushing along the dart. So how does a longbow shooter get around this problem? Here’s how: they don’t have a completely rigid arrow like that, they have a bendable arrow like this. See when it vibrates? You can see these nodal points? That’s important. Check this out. As we put this real arrow into the bow here and we shoot, as we go towards the bow, the fact that we’re accelerating this arrow causes it to build strain energy, causing this big curvature. That curvature then snaps back in the other direction once it bends to a certain point and look what we have. We have the arrow bending around the bow. When we release, it does something cool. It snakes around the bow, just like this and you’re able to fly all the way to the target. So the archer’s paradox is the fact that you have a bow in between you and the target and you’re still able to get around the bow. “The first that happens, is the arrow bends from the pressure of the string and the front arrow being against the riser of the bow. As it leaves the bow, or has already cleared the bow, it bends in the opposite direction. When those two cross, determines where the arrow will fly. One hundred percent of the time, the arrow will fly where these two points are crossed, are pointed. Whereas if this one had been here, then the arrow’s gonna fly to the left. If it was here, the arrow flies off to the right. We want those two lined up to go straight to the target.” – “Gotcha. So the fact that it bends, helps it get around the arrow rest without going off in an angle, as if it were a straight line.” – “Correct.” – “You’re pushing the string straight towards the handle, but somehow it makes it around the handle.” – “Right.” – “Yeah, and the bends is how it does that?” – “That’s correct.” Alright, my buddy Sander actually shoots with a compound bow. You don’t do any of that longbow stuff, right? – “I have one, but I’m not really good at it.” – “Alright, so what’s the deal here?” – “So a compound, there’s a whole lot more going on on a compound. There are more things that can go wrong, too, but there are several advantages if they’re working.” – “Yeah.” – “So a compound, you see that’s it cut out in the middle, you get this -” – “Oh, so the riser’s not stout, is that what you’re saying?” – “Yes, so the arrow is travelling straight, it doesn’t have to go around a riser.” – “Okay.” – “And many people shoot also a drop-away rest, so it’s gonna drop down. Whenever you pull the bow back. a string attached to one of the bowstrings, pulls the rest up -” – “Nice!” “- centers your arrow, if you have it lined all up and square, your arrow is nice and level and then when you shoot, that arrow would dr- the rest would drop away -” – “Well, shoot it, shoot it. Let’s do it. Oh no, wait, let me zoom in.” “Hold on, so I’m looking at that rest, it’s gonna fall away, right? – “Real fast!” – “Okay I’m ready. Dude, that is super fast. So is the arrow touching the rest as it goes through?” – “A little bit.” – “Really?” – “‘Cause it drops but it’s not, I mean, immediate, it’s down before the arrow passes it.” – “So the goal here is, you don’t have to bend around the riser, but I bet the arrow still bends, though?” – “It does bend and that’s actually important in the straightness of the arrow flight.” Isn’t that interesting?But something else is going on here. Byron Ferguson is able to predict the wobbling of that arrow so good, that he’s able to hit an aspirin tablet with a vibrating arrow, just like that. So one of two things is going on. Either a) he knows some science that we don’t; or b) he’s a warlock and this is all black magic. – “Okay, the stiffness of an arrow is called the spine, right? And so the spine is what, Byron?” – “The stiffness of the arrow.” – “Oh, right! So this is your spine tester?” – “This is the spine tester, set up right now to test the flexion of a carbon arrow.” – “Okay.” – “So we actually have a two pound weight and the arrow’s suspended at 26 inches. That’s for carbon.” – “Okay.” – “And we read the inside of the scale here, to see how much it deflects.” – “So you, you test all of your arrows before you shoot, so that you can normalize the paradox?” – “Correct, I want all the arrows to have the same stiffness.” – “And that’s how you’re able to hit things like an aspirin?” – “That’s part of it, yes.” -“There’s a little bit of skill. If it’s out of tolerance, you just don’t even put it in your quiver?” – “That’s what those are.” – “Really? Really? You’ve just a got a box of stuff that you don’t shoot?” – “Yeah, they’re too far out of tolerance.” – “Really? That’s amazing. So, people were asking in the last video – that arrow was deflecting so much -, they’re saying “How do you time that?” and the way you time that, is you know the exact spine of the arrow.” – “Correct.” – “That’s awesome. This is pretty good information.So this isn’t black magic, this is science?” – “Correct.” – “That’s awesome.” Byron is using science to normalize the wobble of his arrows. But less it been, there’s a little bit of wizardry here, right? Because of the certain distance from his bow, he still has to know which side of the arrow that wobble’s gonna be on. And then he has to line that up with an aspirin tablet. So this is a pretty good shot. In order to fully appreciate this trick shot, I’m gonna do a trick shot of my own, using the Phantom Miro. I hope you enjoyed this episode of Smarter Every Day, it was sponsored by Harry’s makes subscription razors, that are really high-quality. They end up being about the same price the old razors I used to use So, I have no need for my old razors, so Byron’s gonna help me get rid of it. If you’re interested in getting a Harry’s razor – I actually shaved with one today -, go to and use the promocode “Smarter”. – “What are you gonna try?” – “I’m gonna try to hit it down in here, around the neck part.” – “Get it of it that way?” – “Cut its head off.” – “Excellent. Alright, I’m gonna film this with the Phantom v711. I hope you hit it, this would be awesome! You did it! Like, I thought you would do it, but you did it! That’s the first shot, Byron!” – “Luckily!” – “Whatever, man!” Alright, there you go. So, if you want to support Smarter Every Day, go to, use the promocode “Smarter”, get you a discount on some razors. Thank you for supporting Smarter Every Day, please considering subscribing and thank you as always, Byron. – “Can I get some Harry’s razors, too?” – “You can!” I’m Destin, you get smarter every day, have a good one – he actually that! BEEP – “You make your own arrowheads, right?” – “Uh no, I designed the head, it’s actually made in Austria. This is what called a destructive test.” – “Holy cow, it didn’t break, man! It didn’t break! It didn’t break! – “Did you think it would do that?” – “I was hoping for it.”


100 Responses

  1. Kruhl Sentru

    January 8, 2020 5:57 am

    "The Archer's Paradox. Because a perfect arrow flies forever, and that's impossible."
    Oh wait, wrong paradox.

  2. eksine

    January 8, 2020 11:11 pm

    I challenge this guy to a duel. I will line up 50 bottles and whoever hits them all first wins. I'll invent the gattling bow, 120 bows per minute

  3. polarablues64

    January 11, 2020 1:51 am

    Olympic style recurves also have a notches riser similar to the compound bow shown in the video. What I would like to see is how the button arrow rests on the olympic bows work in slow motion.

  4. Charles Kompare

    January 13, 2020 8:43 pm

    Now it suggested a video that I’ve already seen from 4 years ago so it’s been 8 then 7 now 4. Will YouTube suggest anything new?

  5. Anthony Baleur

    January 19, 2020 11:07 pm

    Le mec utilse des plumes de type Spinwings ce qui fait que la flèche va touner sur elle même afin d'augmenter la precision, les plumes basiques sont totalement droite, et donc plus influencable par le vent. @SmarterEveryDay Sry i can't explain this in english so if u want to use some trad xD

  6. Earl Arthur

    January 20, 2020 1:14 am

    Destin PLEASE tell me how you got your Richland Bombers shirt!! I'm a proud graduate, Bombers class of 1988…

  7. J Y

    January 20, 2020 5:57 am

    Omg u was watching skyrim gameplay and i thought this was a skyrim vid but when I saw him, my iq went from -1 to 300

  8. Benjamin Rigg

    January 20, 2020 8:07 am

    I like it but there is no mention of the stabilization or counter balance that comes with the forward weight of the tip or f.o.c. it would be cool if u incorporated that into your break down.

  9. Script352

    January 21, 2020 12:54 am

    why arrow always in a opposite side of shooting hand (right hand pulls the bow, but arrow tip on the left side of bow) ?

  10. Dave Alexander

    January 22, 2020 6:24 am

    Always knew about "arrow yaw" but had no clue about "bendaround". But then only shot offset bows. Used to think I was pretty good. Hit tennis balls swinging on a rope but next to this!!!! Not even a beginner!!

  11. Onur Batuhan Özçelik

    January 22, 2020 6:27 am

    I USED TO MAKE MY OWN BOWS AND ARROWS. So I had this paradox before and I felt like a stupid to have such a question in my mind. What I did was to target to a little left so the arrow can go straight which was working

  12. An derson

    January 23, 2020 6:58 pm

    On behalf of the rest of the world…die you fking bloodlusting warmongering devil worshipping Americunts.

    Stay in your Zionist country, dont travel because youre rightfully hated worldwide and should most likely be attacked upon detection of your pathetic accent.

  13. Blaine Steward

    January 28, 2020 8:19 am

    Killer shot with the camera best possible recording you couldn't have done better to see the Archer's paradox in action

  14. Alaskan1Medic

    February 4, 2020 12:57 pm

    The arrow spins on most arrows including get the ones in this video. They are not just deflecting Left to Right. But 360 degrees.

  15. Seth

    February 5, 2020 3:55 pm

    Couldnt you just have an extra cut to the bow so the arrow can go through it instead of arround,and for strength just have it miss alingned

  16. funkybrain

    February 6, 2020 4:00 am


  17. Firstiar Noorwinanto

    February 7, 2020 8:00 am

    The fletching of the arrow is a pure physics. When we release the string, the potential energy on the limbs are transferred to the string, and then to the knocking point (back) of the arrow, converting the energy into kinetic as it pushing the back of the arrow forward.

    The problem is, the arrow tip (front) doesn't have that energy yet. Because the energy transfer between each tip takes time.. Now imagine… You have a stick. And give one of the tip a huge kinetic energy that propels it toward the other tip. The tip you gave energy, will move forward. But the other tip, although it will also move forward, it moves slower than the tip which receive the energy. If the front tip is moving slower and the back tip is moving faster, what happen to the stick? Yep… It fletched. This is why, although compound bows (and modern recurve bows) which set the arrow straight (hence, no archer's paradox), the arrow will fletched all the time.

  18. Gauri Dixit

    February 9, 2020 7:17 pm

    It's not that difficult as it looks. Yes if this is difficult then "walking" is also difficult.someone has rightly said there is davil in details.

  19. KiMoX

    February 9, 2020 11:38 pm

    I sorted my watch later playlist as “oldest first”…. & guess wt! This one came to the top..! Dang
    I think this vid sat on my watch later list for more than 2 years😆! & I have 300 vids on that list as for today..

  20. nate kantorski

    February 12, 2020 6:25 pm

    That's awesome, I remember watching the national geographic video of that a long long time ago, probably like 7 years

  21. Last Templar

    February 13, 2020 2:42 am

    Firstly the "quiver" is a Hollywood myth, secondly they are shooting the bows wrong, historically the most effective way to shoot a bow (meaning fastest and most accurate) is on the side of your dominant hand because you can string an arrow to the bow in one motion rather than modern day archers which use three motions at least to string an arrow, again the quiver is a Hollywood myth because think about moving around would bounce the arrows out and would limit your movement speed, how quiet you are and drawspeed making it useless to a hunter or medieval Archer.

  22. Neptunus Rex

    February 22, 2020 5:03 am

    Does this paradox exist for Asiatic bows? ie Turkic bows, Mongolian bows, or bows used by Han or Tang Dynasty?

    I’m thinking about getting into historical Chinese archery 🏹

  23. 77thTrombone

    February 22, 2020 8:27 pm

    8:51 – Destin shows he wasn't listening to Byron.
    Earlier in the vid: Byron notes that he aims by aligning the nodal points.
    Hmere: Destin still aims the arrowhead.
    Proof that it takes time to turn even a great ship.

  24. The B-Side Talk

    February 22, 2020 10:06 pm

    Cool Channel! Definitely want to see more! If you like music and art and interesting, one of a kind interviews, subscribe to our channel too!

  25. Ronald Arulangi

    February 24, 2020 8:06 pm

    Thanks. This gives me a new perspective that what we call a straight journey is actually a winding process. 🙂


Leave a Reply