Modern MythologyScience

Modern Mythology: Egg-cellent Home Experiement

I really love eggs. I love how they taste and how they look and how they feel when I hold them. (That’s not weird, right?) One of my favorite egg myths is that you can stand an egg on its end at the precise moment of the vernal (or spring) equinox. (Weirdly, not the fall equinox. But whatever.)

I would try this experiment as a kid, but, as it turns out, it’s pretty hard to stand an egg on end at any time of year. Also, I’m a very impatient person. So when it inevitably didn’t work, I just thought that I had missed the equinox by a few hours and resolved to try again next year.

In reality, nothing about the Earth’s orbit or rotation effects whether an egg will balance. Earth spins around the sun at an angle. When the Earth’s axis points away from the sun, it’s winter. When it points toward the sun, it’s summer. In the northern hemisphere, when the axis points as directly as it can toward the sun, it’s the summer solstice, and when the axis points as far away as it can it’s the winter solstice. The time directly in between, when the Earth’s axis points 90 degrees away from the sun is called the equinox. We have one every spring and every fall.

The only manifestation of the spring and fall equinox on the earth is the length of the day; it’s equal parts light and dark. (We should really call the equinoxes Balancing the Force Day, amirite?) There is no special gravitational balance, no mystical phenomenon that makes eggs magically stand on end. Phil Plait at Bad Astronomy has a really good rundown of why where the Earth stands relative to the sun has nothing to do with standing an egg on its end. He also made a great video explaining just how to balance an egg so you can freak out your friends and family! The video is embedded at the bottom of the page.

The origin of this myth seems to be rooted in Chinese legend. The vernal equinox, they thought, restored balance to the world. The manifestation of this balance was that a symbol of fertility – the egg – could be balanced at the precise moment winter turned to spring. However, even if this was somehow rooted in science (which it isn’t), it would not necessarily translate to the vernal equinox as we know it because China uses the lunar calendar. The precise moment winter turns to spring fluctuates from year to year.

So don’t fret if you thought you missed your opportunity to balance an egg. Check out the video below to find out how you can balance and egg on end any day of the year.

P.S. I’ve never been able to do it, so if you want to send in some pictures of your balanced egg, that would fill me with happy!

Featured image credit: bgottsab

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Mindy is an attorney and Managing Editor of Teen Skepchick. She hates the law and loves stars. You can follow her on Twitter and on Google+.

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