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Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D.

Balance an Egg on the Equinox

By March 20, 2014

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Balancing an egg on its end is a matter of skill, not astronomy. (Steve Lewis, Getty Images)March 20 is the vernal equinox, which marks the first day of spring in the northern 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! This 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 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? A simple hypothesis to test is: Eggs can only be balanced on-end on the equinox. If you can balance an egg any other day, 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?


March 18, 2010 at 12:32 pm
(1) Clayton says:

I’ll try this with my 5-year old grandson on the 19th and 20th. He keeps telling everyone that he wants to be a scientist when he grows up. Whether it works or not, the whole exercise will get him thinking and experimenting, and he’ll be developing his fine motor skills too. More importantly, we’ll have some fun and do some guy-bonding. That’s eggsactly what I’m looking for with him. (Sorry, but I couldn’t resist the pun!). I’ll let you know how things worked out.

March 18, 2010 at 2:00 pm
(2) RJFerret says:

Balancing an Egg NOT during an Equinox

The amount of daylight does not affect the bumps on an eggshell.

Worse, your premise that “aligning the gravitational pull of the Sun with that from the center of the Earth” suggests that isn’t true on all the days. That’s misinformation! The gravitational pull is always perpendicular to a point on Earth, no matter what angle the Earth’s access is. What’s more, in the morning or evening the Sun’s pull is to the side, does everything fall over?

Encouraging experimentation is great but I’d suggest promoting false information is worse.


PS: The link I included is a video balancing an egg last Tuesday the 16th.

September 12, 2011 at 7:31 am
(3) baruch says:

It has nothing to do with daylight or spring optimism bla bla bla. It has to do with (and I am speaking from what I learned in school) forces caused by the gravity of the sun. It may be that this is also a lie but then you would have to address that and not the length of a day. I did do this once. I was able to balance an egg for 9 days but I never tried it outside of the equinox.

March 18, 2010 at 2:09 pm
(4) chemistry says:

Randy, I think you’re totally missing my point. The egg-balancing thing is an *urban legend* which you can disprove easily by balancing an egg today or any other non-equinox day. My goal is to get people to question the information they are given and to test the hypothesis for themselves.

March 18, 2010 at 7:34 pm
(5) Naeem Einstein says:

I think this is great. It teaches students that a hypothesis is not a question but a theory. Often, students may be misled into thinking that a hypothesis is always true. This is a way of reinforcing a simple point: science is about investigation – whether we prove or disprove something.

March 18, 2010 at 8:17 pm
(6) KK Hocking says:

Another slight variation on the egg balancing theory is to compare fresh with older eggs. I won’t spill the beans, set up your own hypothesis and check it out.

March 18, 2010 at 11:12 pm
(7) Raymond Pieroway says:

*Axis* :)

March 18, 2010 at 11:23 pm
(8) Ismaeel says:

Re-egg balancing.
Whatever becomes the out come your hypothesis (based on numerous experiments, over the world) the fact is, it will add knowledge, improves skill, and develop child’s enquiry about nature.

March 19, 2010 at 10:01 am
(9) kamil says:

I was able to balance an egg on-end just a while ago. It took me some time to do so. Will do it again tomorrow, on the equinox day itself.

March 21, 2010 at 2:45 pm
(10) Beowulf says:

I would think the orientation of the Moon would be more important, since I believe it has a larger gravitational effect on the Earth (witness the tides follow the Moon not the Sun), however both being in line with the Earth might be best. It might be even more important to find an egg with a center of mass along its geometric axis. No guarantee an egg’s mass distribution is uniform.

January 25, 2011 at 12:38 pm
(11) Tburt says:

It’s jan 25 2011 and there is an egg siting up right on my counter…

March 22, 2011 at 11:23 pm
(12) Jackofalltrade says:

my egg not only stood still but it also started chanting the humpty dumpty poem!!!! amazing!!!!

March 5, 2012 at 3:33 pm
(13) Timothy Kalies says:

Maybe I’ve psyched myself into the urban legend. We held a big party every Vernal Equinox while I was in college. We had eggs on end everywhere! But the life of me can’t do it any other day…

March 16, 2012 at 1:20 pm
(14) Juanita Lopez says:

I tried this back in about 1993 when I first learned it could be done.
It worked. It was amazing. I had to make sure it was a flat surface.
And I balanced it on the small tip end.

March 18, 2012 at 12:33 pm
(15) jake says:

I really dont see how this would make any difference unless you were at the equator of the earth.

In the USA the sun would be pulling on the side of the egg. Only at the equator would the suns pull be aligned from the center of the earth through the axis of the egg and to the center of the sun. And this would only occur at an instant in time.

Aside that it has been disproven, am I missing something about the reasoning behind this theory?

March 21, 2012 at 10:16 pm
(16) funnymom says:

Could it have something to do with centrifugal force since the earth may be tilted at an angle that causes the centrifugal force to be optimal in our hemisphere. Just an idea.

September 22, 2012 at 2:46 pm
(17) Carol says:

Well..not sure why this works with the egg but i tried it a few years ago in the spring and just did it today at 1049…the egg kept falling until the equanox time..10:49….believers or not i was at work on the casino floor.. there was a customer and 4 employees that tried to stand the egg up on a wood surface and until that time it kept falling…so keep up all that urban legend talk…there ate quite a number of us to know the egg balances with no effort twice a year during these rare times…

March 23, 2014 at 7:27 pm
(18) Joelenehunt says:

I balanced 22eggs on the March 20th. I left one standing. The next morning I balanced 4 more and my original egg was still up. The twentieth was Thursday, it is now Sunday evening the 23rd and my original egg is still standing why? I wonder how long it will go. I have been making everyone be careful not to make vibrations around it. This is true there were no tricks I am as shocked as anyone else. I guess I will see how long it will stay on it’s own.

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