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Balancing Eggs on the Equinox

As many of you, I was truly irritated yesterday by the fact that
schools across the country spent their science lesson time on balancing
eggs on their ends. I saw it on CNN as their human interest story. The
anchor indicated that this feat can only be done on an equinox. A sent a
long e-mail message to CNN setting them straight and requesting that they
interview some physicists about this for the next equinox to debunk this
kind of thing.
I had never heard of this activity until a couple of years ago when
I was discussing equinoxes with my astronomy class. A student asked about
balancing eggs on those days. Since I hadn't heard of it (and thus had a
chance to consider it fully), I said that I couldn't think of any reason
why it would be so. I asked them why they thought it would be true. They
gave the typical answer about the sun being over head. I then wrote down
for them the magnitude of the forces experienced by the egg. I indicated
that things like the shape of the egg, wind currents, building vibrations,
etc. would have much more influence on the egg than the sun. Oh, well...

One more story about egg balancing...In the 1988 Hallmark Hall of
Fame movie "Foxfire" with Hume Cronyn, Jessica Tandy, and John Denver, the
teenage son challenges his father saying that his teacher is really smart
because he can balance an egg on its end. He then asks his father if he
can do it. Before the father takes his son out to the woodshed, he takes
an egg, cracks the end of it, and stand it up on the table. With that, we
can do it anytime, anywhere.

Best regards to all,

David Marx
Associate Scientist
Southern Illinois University at Carbondale