Any time at the equinox is a good time to try to get an egg to stand on end.
Or, for that matter, on Easter, Hanukkah, Arbor Day, Ramadan, Shrove Tuesday, or your mom’s birthday. The truth is that if you’re patient or steady enough, you can get an egg to stand on end at any time, on any day of the year.
The egg-standing spring equinox urban myth is one that just won’t die. The idea is that “the sun’s gravity lines up with Earth” on that day, or some other such foolishness.
It isn’t true. If you’re interested, writer and myth debunker Martin Gardner actually tracked down the origins of this one. An American writer in China reported in Life magazine about a custom in a Chinese village of balancing eggs “on the first day of spring.”
When other magazines and papers picked it up, they left out an important fact, that what the Chinese consider “the first day of spring” actually takes place in early February.
Here’s your homework: go get a dozen fresh eggs from the grocery store today, DON’T wait until the equinox, or you won’t believe us. When you get home, find a very sturdy, flat surface. A good, flat kitchen counter works well, but if you have access to a lab counter, all the better. You want something that won’t shake so the eggs won’t tumble over.
Now practice standing the egg up. If you’re really, really patient, you can get an egg to stand on end without any outside aid. If you’re impatient, you can shake the egg, breaking the yolk away from the albumen (egg white) cords inside, which some egg balancers say allows it to settle a little deeper.
Another egg balancer suggests that letting the egg warm to room temperature makes it balance more easily, possibly by reducing condensation, which makes the egg slippery.
Why can an egg stand on end? It turns out that an egg isn’t as smooth as it seems. It has hundreds of little pores that give the egg a little surface irregularity to rest on.
In fact, if you want to cheat, you can also sprinkle salt on your surface to give the egg more little bumps to balance with.
If you really want a challenge, practice balancing it on its smaller end. It is possible, but harder.