Equinox Returns and Eggs Keep BalancingRANDOLPH E. SCHMID , Associated Press
Sep. 20, 1987 11:29 AM ET
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The twice-a-year day of equal light and darkness returns on Wednesday, and with it that special moment that some people believe is the only time an egg can be stood upright.
The equinox is the claimed moment of balance when the forces of the solar system become equal.
It will occur at 9:45 a.m. (EDT) Wednesday as the sun crosses the equator on its annual trek south, marking the end of summer in this hemisphere, as calculated by calendar makers.
Egg balancing, most popular at the spring equinox in March but said to be possible in both seasons, has attracted publicity in recent years - with scientists skeptical and ritual-makers adamant.
Finally a scientist has published research into the matter and concluded that, yes indeed, he could balance an egg - actually several eggs - at the monent of the equinox.
But, on the other side of the coin, he was also able to do so at lots of other times.
''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,'' said astronomer Frank D. Ghigo in a telephone interview.
Ghigo, of the University of Minnesota, decided to study egg balancing after receiving questions about it from members of the public who had read about the annual spring egg balancing festival in New York City.
Ghigo used four samples of a dozen eggs each, which he attempted to balance on their large ends on a Formica tabletop each day between Feb. 27 and April 3, 1984. The spring equinox occurred on March 20, 1984.
Ghigo found that eggs have many bumps and irregularities and with patience some of them could be made to balance virtually every day - while some eggs would simply never balance, on the equinox or otherwise.
He concluded that ''the mood and persistence of the balancer has a major effect on the balancing rate. If one is impatient or nervous, the rate is low.''
Over time, Ghigo found, the percentage of eggs he could balance improved, concluding ''I think I got better, just through practice.''
''One of the things I learned to do was to try balancing an egg at several different places on the table before giving up, to take advantage of the table's slightly varying slopes.''
Ghigo kept his four groups of eggs, all Grade A large, as separate samples, but did not mark any eggs within the samples, so that he would not know which ones had balanced previously.
Nonetheless, he became able to recognize individual eggs as the tests went on, Ghigo admitted. And sample group B changed slightly three days before that equinox, when a kitchen shortage resulted in one of his samples being eaten. It was replaced later that day.
Using a detailed statistical analysis, Ghigo could find no equinoctial effect on the rate of balancing eggs. Indeed his performance slipped slightly on that particular day, which he attributed to the equinox having been at 4:24 a.m. that year in his location, forcing him to rise and conduct the experiment at an unaccustomed hour.
Just because science has no known theory to explain egg balancing is no reason not to check it out, Ghigo said in explaining his decision to run the experiment. ''The evidence, however, certainly suggests that there is no such effect.
''On the other hand, I don't wish to spoil people's fun. I'm in favor of seasonal celebrations, and if egg balancing ceremonies add to the enjoyment of the festivities, I would encourage people to participate in them.''