The internet loves to collectively do things and call it a “challenge.” Dumping ice on yourself is the ice bucket challenge. Eating cinnamon (don’t do that) is the cinnamon challenge. Eating Tide Pods (please don’t do that!!) is the Tide Pod challenge.
The latest viral trend that thankfully does not involve eating things that could kill you is the so-called “broom challenge” or “broomstick challenge,” which is based on the theory that on one day a year you can balance a broom standing straight up.
But physicists are crying foul, saying the challenge isn’t quite what it seems to be.
Where it began
The trend started Feb. 10, when a Twitter user posted a video claiming that NASA said that was the day of the year a broom would stand up on its own, thanks to the earth’s gravitational pull.
The tweet inspired a slew of people to try it for themselves, including celebrities like Paula Abdul and DJ Khaled.
But according to NASA — which never actually said there was a special day you could do this — the broomstick challenge may not be as mind-blowing as it seems. Astronaut Alvin Drew and scientist Sarah Noble responded to the challenge with a short Twitter video Tuesday.
“Did you do the broomstick challenge yesterday?” Noble asks. “Turns out you can do it again today.”
“It’s just physics,” Drew adds.
Everything has a centre of gravity. Almost everything can be balanced if you get it just right. It doesn’t matter the day or the Earth’s gravity or any of that. Just positioning the broom bristles correctly to make magic happen.
So yes, you can balance a broom standing up this week and amaze your friends — but you can do it any time of the year, too.
Cracking the case
It’s not even the first time a hoax like this has circulated. According to fact checking website Snopes, the broom challenge circulated back in 2012. It’s actually a version of an old wives’ tale that you can balance an egg better at the equinox — March 20 and Oct. 20 — than the rest of the year.
So there you have it. Physics is gonna physics. Go stand up brooms to your hearts’ content! No one’s stopping you — least of all the Earth’s gravitational pull.