It’s Not Magic, You Skipped Too Many Sciences Classes: Unpacking the Mirror Optical Illusion on Twitter

“It physically hurts me when he says ‘how does the mirror know?’”

Some days, logging onto Twitter can provide you with just the amount of relief you’re after when you’re lucky enough to have a nicely curated feed punctuated with content that will either end up teaching you something or at least manage to pull a quick laugh out of you. On other days, when algorithms aren’t working in your favor, reading through people’s thoughts in around 140 characters can make you want to lose faith in almost the entirety of humankind. And if you were on the bluebird app over the weekend, the latest trending viral video probably got you sighing just as hard as us.

For the past few days, internet users, across both Twitter and TikTok, collectively marked a monumental moment of online embarrassment by appearing stupefied over a primary-school-level science experiment. To break it down, users would film themselves placing a small object behind a piece of paper and against a mirror and were shocked that they were able to see what was behind the piece of paper despite there being something “blocking the mirror’s view.” To make matters worse, a score of fully grown adults rushed towards rationalizing the perfectly normal phenomenon with theories of all sorts of kinds, with some even blaming magic or even calling it “creepy.”


#stitch with @baileycaviness12 this just blowed my mind i still don’t understand #fyp #foryou #4upage

♬ original sound – Sal Styles

If you happen to have also skipped one too many physics 101 classes back in the day, here’s essentially how the pseudo-trick works, courtesy of American Youtuber Pegasus:

“That’s what I call basic properties of light and properties of a mirror,” he satirically said in a YouTube video that has since racked up 140,000 views. “I haven’t had a physics class in about six years, (I mean) I’m a freaking Youtuber, probably of the dumbest bunch of people out there, and even I can tell what’s wrong,” he continued.

“Number one, we need to establish this as a precedent: the mirror is not sentient. It’s not a supernatural force (and there’s no) human being behind the mirror somehow controlling it. It does not actually have eyes. (…) The way a mirror works is through this fascinating concept called reflection of light,” he explained before concluding that light is simply being reflected on your eyeballs rather than through a bypassing object.

Far from being any kind of groundbreaking discovery or loophole in science, the new internet sensation actually happens to have a name of its own, commonly referred to as the “Mirror and Paper Experiment Demonstration.” As seen on the diagram below, as long as light can travel between whatever object is “hidden,” the mirror, and our eyes, the image of it will always appear reflected on the mirror — basically, the object interfering doesn’t matter depending on the angle from which you are looking at.

Racking hundreds of thousands of views since the trend initially rose to internet fame, the viral optical illusion was quick to expose how dogmatic social media platforms can be with their ability to make people doubt or want to question themselves on some of the most basic and simple principles. These platforms are often accused of disseminating fake news at a pace no moderator can even try to keep up with, and despite their myriad of pros and rich catalog of benefits, these skits serve as a reminder of how the Internet should constantly be used as a tool rather than a means to an end. Every claim should be fact-checked before being quoted or considered as somewhat true or trustworthy.

Share this article

Related stories