Dear Matt: On the news tonight, 1 listened to the announcers going on about how this was the only day of the year when you can stand an egg on its end without having it fall over, but nobody explained why that was true. They all looked like they were serious. Were they serious? If they were, why can you only stand an egg on end one day a year? — Believe Almost Everything I Hear, Santee
Sorry, Mr. Gullible. A little late getting to this question, I guess. Our annual egg-balancing festival falls on the vernal equinox, March 21, when the sun passes over the equator. I’ve been a little slow to hop on this one because it’s 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 (primarily the force of gravity) are in some mystical balance, allowing anyone so inclined to balance 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.
We’ll leave the pins and needles to others, but in the interests 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 tabletop virtually at will on July 26 this year. (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 have been “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 one of your questions in print on July 29, you’ll have seven years’ bad luck if you don’t mail in a large check to show your gratitude.