I decided to take a break this week from Full Dome Saga to observe the upcoming autumnal equinox, which occurs on Sunday, September 22. I was having a conversation the other day about the first day of fall, and the age-old subject of balancing an egg came up in the discussion. Can you balance an egg on the equinox????
First, let’s take a look at the equinox itself. For a refresher on the reasons for the seasons, click here .
Last time I wrote a seasonal article, our Earth’s axis was tilting towards the Sun on the summer solstice. Now, the Earth has traveled along another quarter of its orbit. The Earth is still tilted, but the axis is leaning neither towards nor away from the Sun.
This happens twice per year (once during fall and once during spring). On the equinox, the day and night are about the same length. The name equinox is derived from the Latin words aequus, meaning “equal”, and nox, meaning “night”. If you are standing at the equator, the Sun will appear directly overhead at noon; both poles receive equal sunlight. For us up here in the Northern Hemisphere we are observing the start of fall. Remember, however, that down in the Southern Hemisphere they will be celebrating the vernal equinox as they are moving into springtime.
So where does the egg fit into all of this? Some say the idea of balancing the egg was started by the ancient Chinese. Balancing an egg on the equinox symbolized equality and the balance of light and darkness. You can do this yourself at home. It is a challenge to balance an egg, due to its shape and its viscous interior (not to mention the position of the yoke throwing it off balance).
Balancing the egg on the equinox became a phenomenon mainly because the idea was passed from person to person. People thought that the equinox was a special day on which you can balance an egg. Perhaps this gave people the extra motivation to really try and get that egg to stand up. Successful egg balancers felt validated by their triumphs, which furthered the notion that this could only be accomplished on the equinox. This most likely led to the big misconception that the cause is a special balance between the gravitational pull from the Sun and the gravitational pull of the Earth during the equinox. This is not the case. So what makes the egg stand?
The answer is: our efforts! Try it yourself. The egg can balance upright on any day of the year. It takes time, concentration, and steady hands, but it can be done. Perhaps that was the original intent of the egg balancing; it’s a way to meditate and ponder on the first day of the new season. So go forth, celebrate the coming of fall, and balance an egg!