It's come to our attention here at DNews that there's a rash of people claiming to be able to suddenly stand their brooms on end. The brushy end, that is.
Some folks think this has something to do with the coming of spring, or the vernal equinox. The spring equinox is the moment when the sun crosses the equator on its way north, signaling the end of winter in the Northern Hemisphere and the start of it in the Southern Hemisphere. That happens this year, in the Northern Hemisphere at least, on March 20.
But why would brooms start standing at attention just now, weeks before the actual date? Because people are trying to balance their brooms just now, that's why. I had visions of brooms worldwide jumping simultaneously upright, but since mine didn't that couldn't be it.
If you try to balance an old broom, like the one I use to chase my mean duck into the pond, it won't work; it's the wrong shape. If you use a new broom that still has a straight bottom, it's not hard to get it to stand upright. Here are explicit instructions, if you're interested, but it took about two seconds for mine to hop to it.
The more interesting - and much older - Case of the Balancing Whatever is the egg, which is the classic item to try to balance around the equinox, especially if one believes that the forces of the solar system are perfectly in balance at this time of year.
It's thought that the Chinese were the originators of spring egg balancing, possibly because of the egg's obvious connections to the life, newness and fertility that accompany springtime. It really would be cool if such a perfectly oval object were able to miraculously balance only at this time of year.
Many cultures celebrate the egg at this time of year, not least the Western tradition of hiding Easter eggs (even if most of them are plastic in the United States).
Hence a real scientist's attempt to shed light on the practice of egg balancing in 1984. Apparently, no one since has found it necessary to officially replicate the experiment of Frank D. Ghigo, because his is the first and last I could find.
Ghigo took four dozen eggs, which he tried to balance on their larger ends between Feb. 27 and April 3, 1984, according to a 1987 Associated Press article in The Victoria Advocate.
Indeed, he was able to balance some of them every day of the experiment. His success at balancing the eggs did increase as time went on, though Ghigo put it down to having so much egg-balancing practice.
"The upshot is that, as far as I can tell, there isn't too much relationship between astronomical phenomena and balancing eggs. It is basically a function of the shape of the egg and the surface," Ghigo told the AP.
As for all of the broom/egg balancers out there: If you could manage to balance your broom on the pointy end or a plastic egg, now that really would be something.