PBS KidsZOOM Home Back to Activity
Science Rocks!

Arrows Optical Illusion


your results

Sent in by:
Kelsey of Troy, NY

Surprise your eyes with this optical illusion!

Materials Needed

  • pipe cleaners
  • scissors



  1. Take two pipe cleaners that are the same length and the same color. If they aren't the same, the optical illusion won't work.
  2. Cut in half two other pipe cleaners that are a different color. These will be the ends of your arrows.
  3. Wrap the end of one long pipe cleaner around the middle of one short pipe cleaner. Then bend the short one in half so it looks like an arrow. Do the same thing with the other end.
  4. Then do it again with the other pipe cleaner, but this time, turn the arrows the other way.
  5. Move your pipe cleaners apart... Now you have an optical illusion! Even though the two long pipe cleaners are the same length, one of them should look shorter than the other.

Can you make two different sized pipe cleaners look the same? Do you know of any other optical illusions you could experiment with? Try them out, and be sure to send your discoveries to ZOOM.

Some of your Results

Vivian, age 12 of Chicago, IL wrote:
When I made the arrow, the two arrows looked different. I thought one arrow is bigger than another one, but they are actually the same length. I feel that optical illusion is really amazing! I bet there are a lot more amazing optical illusionsjust like this one in the world, too!

Fafa of CA wrote:
When I tried it with my friends, they thought that they were different sizes but when I showed them that they were the same size, they were so surprised. I tricked my friends!

Rachel, age 10 of CO wrote:
It worked perfectly!! I'm using it for the science fair... Thx, this is a great example

Alesha, age 11 of Cusseta, AL wrote:
the first one looked a little bit shorter than the other one, to most people.

Victor, age 7 of Auburn, AL wrote:
I cut one shorter, and the 1st one was actully longer, and I tricked my dad.

ZOOM Fan, age 13 of Sugar Land, TX wrote:
a lot of stuf happened. first I needed pipe cleaners then sisors and then wabam they looked so diffrent.

Bridget, age 14 of AR wrote:
For my science project I did Arrows Optical Illusion. I got an A on it

Megan, age 14 of Phoenix, AZ wrote:
I did the Arrows Optical Illusion for Science fun. It did not work.

Elaine, age 12 of Vancouver, BC wrote:
MY friends thought it they were both different length

Edwina, age 12 of San Diego, CA wrote:
well, my school was doing a sciene fair for the 6th graders and you guys saved alot of researching. at the end of the project. thankyou!

Kazim, age 10 of Sugarland, TX wrote:
when idid it I thought it was going to be not the same but it turned out to be same.

Alyssa, age 4 of Grantsville, UT wrote:
some were long and some were short.

Lily, age 10 of Granbury, TX wrote:
They so totally look two differnt lengths!!!

Laurel, age 10 of Glencoe, ON wrote:
I made the arrows but I saw this trick t the "Ripley's Believe it or Not! Museum" in Niagara Falls On. Canada and they are the same length.

Juliana, age 8 of Arnold, MD wrote:
They looked different sizes. For real.

Bryce, age 7 of Brooklyn, NY wrote:
I looked at it and it looked at it for along time and the one on the right looked longer.

Devin, age 11 of Round Rock, TX wrote:
I tryied it with 4 diffrent arrows and it really confused them.

Nate, age 7 of Southborough, MA wrote:
I asked my mom witch one is longer. She said '' the longer one.'' I said no!. Thair both the same.

Ruta, age 11 of Cleveland Hts, OH wrote:
By looking at the picture, I know why it looks like this--since the arrows are facing in different directions, one string looks longer than the other! I'm a preteen mad-scientist!!

Nancy, age 9 of San Diego, CA wrote:
My mom thought that the the one with the arrows out was the longest. But when I showed her the real one it was the same and she was really confused then she got it.

Daniela, age 11 of Emerson, NJ wrote:
It was very fun to do it! It ius such a simple experiment, it did not take that long to do it! I did the experiment in my science camp and everyone got confused!

Jade, age 13 of New York wrote:
It was very cool at first it was hard to look at but I saw it.

Tori, age 11 of Rutland wrote:
I was definetly suprized of what I saw! they were the same size!!! Oh my gosh!!!

Leslie, age 8 of Caldwell, ID wrote:
I didn't believe that they were the same! It was awesome!

Maddison, age 9 of Colbert, OK wrote:
When I put them far appart one of them was shorter than the other.

Helen, age 9 of North Pole, AK wrote:
I asked my sister which is longer, and she said "The one that has arms and legs on it." then I showed her that they are both the same.

Kyle, age 11 of Readington, CA wrote:
I did the arrows optical illusion. I thought it was cool how one looked longer than the other and the other one looked shorter than the other even though they were the exact same length.

Lindsey of Sooke, BC wrote:
When I tried it the first time I got a little dizzy, allthough it was so cool. After I swithched the oppisite places, I did the same thing, it was awesome, thanx for the cool experament ZOOM!!

Jamie, age 10 of Tucson, AZ wrote:
So much fun. I did it to my friends and they were so confused. Thanks soo much!

not yet implemented