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Egg Balancing - Spring Equinox... Myth or Fact?

Egg Balancing - Spring Equinox... Myth or Fact?

by Monty Webb

Posted on March 20, 2013 at 12:25 AM

Updated Thursday, Mar 20 at 7:25 AM

Can You Stand An Egg On Edge During The During The Spring Equinox?

The answer is YES, but you can do it any time of the year too!  Look, I don't want to scramble your eggs, but lets look at the facts.

The "Magical" Powers of the Vernal Equinox

Every year around the Vernal (Spring - on or about March 20) Equinox we hear about the magical property that allows eggs to balance on end.  This has to be one of the silliest myths out there.  We will talk about one explanation given each year.  But first, lets look at this from an astronomical point of view.

The Vernal Equinox is one of the two days per year in which the length of day and night are the same.  The other day would be the Autumnal Equinox. 

The Earth's spin axis is tilted with respect to its orbital plan.  This is what causes the seasons.  When the Earth's axis points away from the sun it is winter and when it points toward the sun we have summer.  You can see from the diagram above that the north end of the axis never points directly at the sun, but it is closest during the summer solstice and the opposite is true for the winter solstice.  Midway between summer and winter, in the spring and fall, the spin axis of the Earth points 90 degrees away from the sun.  This happens TWICE a year!  So if we believe the myth one should be balance an egg on the Autumnal Equinox as well.  But the poor Autumnal Equinox always seems to get overlooked

That should be our first clue that something is not right with this myth.  Also it is worth noting that while the Vernal Equinox is heralding spring in the northern hemisphere it's announcing the start of autumn in the southern hemisphere.  Yet, another clue to cast doubt on the magical gravitational powers. 

Bad Science

One of the "goofiest" explanations I have heard, and I'm sure you have too, is during the Vernal (Spring) Equinox the sun's gravity lines up with the Earth causing eggs to be able to stand on end.  Sounds pretty foolish, but this myth will not go away!  The most dominate force of gravity is the one between the Earth and the egg, the Sun has no effect on the egg.  It's all a balancing act!

The Origin of the Myth

The Chinese are thought to have originated the practice of standing eggs on end during the start of spring.  Just as the equinox symbolically restores balance to the world by signaling its rebirth after winter.  Eggs, the symbol of fertility, could be balanced, this was a sign that all nature was in harmony.

The problem with this is the Chinese calendar had this transition occurring at various times of the year, based in part by the Chinese lunar month which was normally in February.  Their first day of spring didn't happen during the actual Vernal Equinox! 

Bottom Line

The Vernal Equinox has no special egg balancing powers!  Standing an egg on its end is something anyone can do anytime of the year.  All it takes is a little practice and a lot of patience!