My friends and I were talking the other day and the subject came around to the one day of the year that you can balance an egg on its end. My friend says that there is a day when the earth is in just the right position in the sky that you can stand an egg on its end and it won't fall over. When is this, and why does it happen?
-- I'll Believe Anything, El Cajon
Yikes, Mr. Gullible. How the heck did the conversation get around to balancing eggs? Not that the story doesn't have legs. You hear it every year. For true believers, our annual egg-balancing festival is on March 21, the vernal equinox, when the sun passes over the equator. Bunk science. I was unable to trace the faulty facts back to any specific sources, but undoubtedly they are ancient. This particular theory has led the weak-minded among us to believe that on the vernal equinox, somehow all unseen forces in the universe (particularly the force of gravity) are in some mystical balance, allowing anyone so inclined to stand an egg on its end. By implication, then it should be impossible to balance that same egg on March 20 or March 22. And pins, knitting needles, ice cream cones, dollar bills, small children, all manner of other things should balance on point on March 21.
In the interest of thorough investigation, the steady-handed staff of the Matthew Alice Media Watchdog and Macrame Research Lab stood common uncooked chicken eggs on end on a table top virtually at will on January 15. (It helps if you use eggs that have well centered yolks.) It's easier to stand the eggs on their fat ends, though I've heard it's not impossible to stand them on their pointy ends too. We could only get that one to work on a carpet.
So consider the vernal equinox theory more bad science laid to rest. You should have been suspicious when nothing was said about the autumnal equinox, six months later, when, presumably gravitational forces would again be "in balance." And say, if you believe everything you hear, do you also believe everything you read? It's only a small leap of faith. If so, then consider this fact. If Matthew Alice answers your question in print on January 26, you'll have seven years' bad luck if you don't mail in a large check to show your gratitude.