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Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D.

Can You Balance an Egg on the Equinox?

By September 20, 2013

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Can you balance an egg on the equinox?


The autumnal equinox is Sunday, September 22, 2013 at at 20:44 UTC (4:44 pm EDT). This is the first day of fall in the northern hemisphere, or the first day of spring in the southern hemisphere. Are you familiar with the urban legend that it's easier to balance an egg on end on the equinox than on other days of the year? Test it and see! The vernal equinox one of the two times during the year when the sun crosses the celestial equator and the spin axis of the Earth points 90 degrees away from the sun. Why should this affect your ability to balance an egg on end? The premise is that aligning the gravitational pull of the Sun with that from the center of the Earth should somehow make it easier to balance any object.

Test the Egg-Balancing Hypothesis Yourself

Take a carton of eggs and try balancing the eggs on end today. Can you stand any of them up (without resorting to tricks like putting salt under the eggs)? Can you stand eggs on their small ends as well as their large ends? Keep track of your results and repeat the process on the equinox. Do you note any differences? An easier hypothesis to test is: Eggs can only be balanced on-end on the equinox. If you can balance an egg today, you've disproven the hypothesis. It's that easy!

One thing I find neat about egg-balancing is that a balanced egg will hold its position until a vibration knocks it down. How long can you keep an egg standing?

Comments

September 22, 2009 at 1:32 am
(1) Jody says:

Yes, they can be balanced on the 22nd. My father showed me that they could in fact be balanced on the equinox (spring or fall, obviously.) And, that they were next to impossible to balance any other time. It’s unbelievable until you see it.

August 30, 2011 at 9:18 am
(2) Samuel says:

Next to impossible? In 10 minutes my biology class balanced it 9 times and it was just a totally normal day.

September 22, 2010 at 9:33 am
(3) Kaitlyn says:

Sorry Jody, you can balance an egg on any day. It just takes patience and a steady hand.

September 22, 2010 at 9:42 am
(4) Swanny203 says:

In order to balance any object, the object’s center of mass needs to be over the object’s support base. Therefore, an egg can be balanced on any day or time – as long as one is steady enough to get the egg’s center of mass over its support base.

April 1, 2011 at 4:42 am
(5) zepplin says:

YES this can be done , i have done it with a dozen eggs all at once, all of the eggs stood on end untill the passing, and fell at the same time within seconds , those who choose not to believe this are rather narrow minded or think they are some kind of authority of genius , it is not a myth IT IS A FACT

June 14, 2011 at 1:25 pm
(6) Jonah says:

Yes, it is a FACT that you can do this on the equinox. You can also do it any other time.

No body has pointed out the obvious reason WHY the myth that “you can ONLY balance an egg on the equinox” IS a MYTH: because the shifting of the Earth’s axis is continuous. This myth is predicated on the assumption that the earth stands still for most of the time, THEN it suddenly begins to shift it’s axis around the time of the equinox. FALSE. The earths axis is changing steadily in an ebb and flow fashion. That is why the temparatures change GRADUALLY from hot (summer) to cold (winter) and vice-versa.

If it were TRUE that the earth is stationary, and THEN during the spring and fall it begins to shift it’s axis at that time, then MAYBE that would help you do some cool tricks that you otherwise could not do, but that is not the case.

2 + 2 = 4 wins again.

September 23, 2011 at 3:45 pm
(7) Shawn C. says:

I’ve been wanting to try this experiment for at least the past 22 years and I finally did! I have done it twice so far and the egg is still standing up! Thanks “Miss V” one of my high school teachers for telling me about this. How cool!

March 23, 2012 at 8:23 pm
(8) John says:

I have tried to balance eggs on various days with little success. During the Spring equinox it was a breeze, but only at a certain time of day. I had no problem at all balancing a whole row of eggs. Both before and since, I have not been able to balance them.
Every generation, there are arrogant fools who believe science has answered every question, but every generation discovers more. That is the beauty of science. 500 years ago, folks were probably equally confident they knew all there was to know, but they were wrong.
It’s a cool phenomenon; enjoy it!

May 3, 2012 at 1:41 am
(9) BobBurger says:

John while if you want to believe that it is some sort of magic thats perfectly fine, but if you want to know the answer as to why you couldn’t on other days is because you knew you couldn’t. If you attempt a difficult task knowing you will fail, you will… If you think you will succeed, you can.

July 14, 2012 at 12:45 pm
(10) Rich P says:

I have repeatedly tried this, both on the spring equinox and fall. It worked. I was at a Perkins in Anoka Mn. and talked the cooks into trying it. We had a dozen eggs balanced on end. The customers were amazed. It did not take a ‘steady hand’ as somebody here says. I have tried it on other days of the year and have never been able to balance an egg.

September 19, 2012 at 10:04 pm
(11) bobc says:

It’s like this, especially for all of you genius’….I have been doing this egg balancing for over 25 years….And I can tell tell all of you that, it has nothing to do whether you cannot do it on off equinoxal times of the year or not just because you deep down in your mind you know that it can’t be done, or that it is that time of year and it will work….BS!!….I have bet big money on it could be done anytime of the year, and it Cannot be done, I have lost the money….It can only be done at these two times of the year and that is it….So, for the ones that say they have done this on any given day, you are full of it plain and simple…So please don’t come here and BS the people that haven’t done this before and disprove this phenomenon…You all try to non shalantly explain it all off as if everythings a damn trick or something, science is science for a reason.. Quit playing like you are some sort of Science Professor’s with a know it all attitude and debunk things just for the sake of debunking things…It only shows how truly ignorant you are to shake the meaning of true science…..Get a life!!!!….

September 22, 2012 at 9:37 am
(12) Sherry says:

Yes, I’ve done the same thing – set up my eggs a day before and let them stand all day during the equinox, one more day thereafter, and then they finally came down – all laying in the same direction. Like a dance! I think four days was my longest run. It probably is possible to balance on any other day with the right egg, but it’s harder and for way shorter periods of time. Minutes.

September 22, 2012 at 4:27 pm
(13) Robert Dale says:

I have tried this without success, but maybe without enough effort. My daughter did it at my house, and I let it stand until it fell, about 4 days.

September 27, 2012 at 12:25 pm
(14) JWB says:

Some of you are way out there. Yes, this can be done anytime – not just on certain magical days of the year.

December 28, 2012 at 11:43 am
(15) Celad says:

The ease depends on the texture of the shell. The smoother the texture, the more difficult it will be. A coarse texture will have more points to make a stable “tripod”, so to speak. It has nothing to do with the equinox.

June 12, 2013 at 2:04 pm
(16) Egghead says:

The axis of the earth is always tilted – so the alignment of the gravitational pull with this fantastic effect on eggs would only occur at noon and midnight on equinox – and it would only work near equator.

The gravitational pull of the sun is much smaller than that of the moon – that is way the tides follow the moon – and are slightly boosted by the sun every 2 weeks – so any effect on eggs would be from the moon – and should peak twice a day – however the effect is too small to have an effect on an egg.

Another example of a myth stemming from the bad educational state of people – don’t blame people – blame the politicians – and the people that voted for them….

June 15, 2013 at 6:07 pm
(17) Knows Everything Guy says:

WOAH THE EQUINOX ALIGNS PERFECTLY WITH THE SUN? Cool, except that would make a difference within about 50 or so miles within the equator, and would have less effect than if you had a fan running in another room. Stupids.

September 23, 2013 at 10:36 pm
(18) Janice Mcclure says:

We do this every year. Last March we were in California and it worked just as well a sit does in Minnesota. We amazed our relatives. On Sunday 9-22 we forgot until 6pm but it still worked even though we were 2 hours late.

October 7, 2013 at 7:47 pm
(19) micheal says:

I balanced an egg today about 30 minutes ago it was easy and i diproved your theory

February 21, 2014 at 9:47 pm
(20) TJ says:

I have discovered that I can easily balance an egg on its end during the equinox, not at other times of the year, although I have seen other people accomplish this in an effort to disprove my allegation (itís not even a hypothesis). On those occasions, after protracted effort, an egg was made to stand on its end, and lasted for a few seconds, at best a minute. During equinox, vernal or autumnal, I have easily stood dozens of eggs on end, and so could everyone else who tried. Last autumn I could not, no matter how many times I tried with different eggs and different surfaces. I later found out that the person I relied on for the equinox time was off by several hours. So I could not get an egg to stand on end, even though I thought I was doing it during the equinox. This coming March 20th, Thursday morning at 9:57 PDT the experiment can be conducted again. I encourage cynics (as opposed to skeptics) to try it now, and then, and see if they notice a difference. I donít know what the explanation could be, but I have witnessed the phenomenon many times over many years. I have been able to stand an egg on end at other times, but it is significantly easier during equinox, whether one knows it or not. This ďmythĒ persists because so many people have experienced the phenomenon.

March 20, 2014 at 9:03 am
(21) Zach Trant says:

What’s funny is that some of you in support of the equinox theory are saying completely different things. One I’d you said you balanced an egg from the day before to the day after, one of you said you couldn’t do it once because you were off by a few hours. I just disproved this theory using a an accelerometer. My readings are same from yesterday. And the day before. I’ve been testing for a week.

March 20, 2014 at 9:50 am
(22) Michael Fertig says:

Works for me every year!

March 21, 2014 at 12:41 am
(23) mike h. says:

Annalee Jacoby, the China correspondent for Life magazine, set things going with an article in its March 19, 1945 issue. She had seen and photographed a curious local Chinese ritual in the city of Chunking. The locals would balance eggs on one end

The Chinese legend was that it was much easier to balance an egg on end on the first day of spring, than on any other day of the year.

Now here’s something cute about the timing of spring. They believed that the first day of spring happened about six weeks before the spring equinox, in early February.

So the Chinese stood the eggs on their ends, not on the equinox, but about six weeks earlier.

Please note that this date is quite different from many western countries, which claim that spring begins on the equinox.

Anyhow, when this myth travelled to the USA, it changed slightly to have the eggs standing up, not in early February (which was the beginning of the Chinese spring), but on the equinox in March (which was the beginning of the American spring).

And the myth that you could balance eggs on end only at the equinox went right along with it.

Mind you, the six week gap between the Chinese start of spring and the Western start of spring was conveniently ignored. So the roots of this legend are flawed right from its beginning.

March 21, 2014 at 10:11 am
(24) Paul says:

Jody, apparently you are not a student of science. An egg can be balanced on any day of the year, it only takes persistence.

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