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

  1. Imagine going back in times and teaching an army to become the best archers the world has ever known only to still be taken out by powder in a barrel go boom

  2. Sure, he shot an aspirin in slow motion. But can he do it at full speed?

  3. Excellent! I love archery and would rate myself as a fair to good shot. But before viewing this, did not fully understand the archer's paradox, nor how to correctly compensate for it. Really stoked to have stumbled upon SmarterEveryDay channel. Two thumbs up.

  4. When he shot the mirror I thought it was the camera and that the glass shattered but it was somehow still recording lol

  5. Go Bombers. Class of '71. Harry's razors are great. Stay sharp for a long time. Therefore they be cheaper.

  6. What about Zeno's paradox? Does the arrow ever reach the target? Can you also do a slow motion video about that?

  7. Archer's paradox: never heard of it before but that was fricking cool!

  8. Thats my buddy's dad. His son is just as good at guitar as his dad is with a bow!

  9. It's really fascinating that you can use the oscillation of the arrow to get around the deflection caused by the bow being in the way of the arrow….but….why don't they just drill a hole in the bow for the arrow to go through and avoid the problem altogether?

  10. 8:31 Why would you put a promo over a video that you want us to see!?

  11. You can say what you want to, but line of sight proves you can see the target with no bow in the way… On my Recurve bow I can look down the arrow and see the target, perfectly inline with my arrows flight path. Explain that as a Paradox. And then ask yourself why you pay so much money for an arrow rest, when the arrow doesn't even touch it after you release the string? Yes I shoot off the shelf, with my Recurve, simple old fashion two finger rest on my Compound bow. Thanks but no thanks friend

  12. i thought that a paradox happens when two doctors work together.
    Oh, wait. That is a "pair of docs" :-o.

  13. That is not what a paradox is… Cambridge dictionary shows “a statement or situation that may be true but seems impossible or difficult to understand because it contains two opposite facts or characteristics”

  14. lol just noticed the Bombers shirt! Woot! RHS All the way! 🙂

  15. Thankyou for teaching us new things, if not every day, at least every time we watch. Chil

  16. wow, i notice that it seems like the arrow is wobbling only in a plane, but in fact it wobbles in a circular fashion because it rotates longitudinally

  17. I recognize that shirt, are you from Richland or just got the shirt?


  19. Now I partially understand why the arrow is not deflected off the target when an arrow's fins touch the bow after firing.

    Because the arrow bends at the start of the shooting, fins are not touching the bow and that nullifies the arrow's deflection to any side.

  20. I wish I had a friend like Destin in my life. Surely would make existence far more fun.
    But as it is, I sit at home, in my room, wishing I had friends that had interests closer to my own. I'm at the age and of the health that I would be one of the men that made the announcement to family and fellow tribesmen that I was going into the wilderness to hunt alone, knowing full well I was going off to die so there would be a little more food for those with longer futures and better chances of survival than myself.
    But since I live in modern times, I live on, yet feel no less of a burden and no less useless than those that sacrificed themselves for the betterment of the community.
    At least there's YouTube for me to live vicariously through others.

  21. Shoot off your Thumb. No archers paradox. I shoot an Asian Style Horse Bow. No arrow shelf. I shoot off my thumb knuckle. No paradox.

  22. There is another part of the paradox you didn't mention and that is tip weight in correlation to arrow length and spine rating. It helps to move the point at which the arrow flexes and allows a more stable flight till the fletchings take over from wind resistance.

  23. The Iranians believe it or not, were the best with bows and arrows. Especially the Persian Achamenid dynasty archers who at one point were the most feared and lethal unit on the planet. And then there were the Parthian dynasty horseback archers. One big success of Persian conquests was incredible archery skills.

  24. from the title I thought it is something related to Zeno's arrow paradox!

    but still cool though!

  25. When you are making a video and want to sound classy and end up saying "pah-kkhaaaaaan" instead of "pee-can" and cause all your ancestors to roll over in their graves.

  26. I don't have a bow, never have had one or shot one…but still I woke up from my sleep at 2am and watched this entire video…

  27. NEXT… Barren having a YouTube channel and I subscribe to it!!! … nice guy, clear explanations!

  28. Jed Clampett with his rifle could shoot wings off of flies so as not to kill them, and I think this archer must be his kin.

  29. A child uses a compound bow, an adult with skills uses a bow and arrow

  30. The reason you can be so accurate at range is because the swibblety swoobles stop after a very short period. If he showed long range slow motion, youd see that after about 15 feet, it's a "straightened arrow" so to speak. This effect is literally never an issue for most medieval archers. They're targets are so far away that the swabbles don't even matter

  31. Naaa Dollar Shave Club is better. Used both, Harries sucked at shaving my neck.

  32. There are two of each of us… the man you think you are… and the man you are… If you're a woman, there are, apparently, four or five of you…

  33. 6:07 i wonder which quill that one came from🤔? shout out from Decatur 👋

  34. The hard thing is to hit from middle to far range.
    you need to take in acount gravity the angle of the bow and to know the what will be the trajectory path of the arrow base on the that.

  35. I get so excited, even at 56 to learn something I didn't know before. As a teenager, I had a handmade longbow and it was loooong. Just to get it strung was a feat in itself. I still remember my string breaking and my father getting a local guy, who made stuff like that to make a new one. When you live in a very rural area, it's amazing that these craftsmen can be found. He was in such demand, it took several months before he even got to my string. I never really mastered the bow to Byron's level and this video gave me lots of clues as to why.

    If I don't learn something new each day, I feel like I've missed out. Thanks for another great video! God Bless!

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