I'VE SEEN a rash of Facebook postings over the past few days in which folks claimed they were able to stand a broom on end thanks to a supposed "planetary alignment," or the impending vernal equinox, or some such drivel. Many boasted photographic evidence.
As you can see in the photo taken by yours truly above, I managed to reproduce the experiment with great success. That broom really is standing on end. But here's the thing: it's a trick, not the result of any spooky celestial phenomenon.
For one thing, the equinox won't occur till March 20. As it happens, about a week ago Venus, Jupiter, and Mercury were all lined up together in the night sky, but astronomers say neither planetary alignments nor equinoxes (nor solstices, for that matter) have any physical effect on earthly objects. The same brooms standing on end today will stand on end a week from now, a month from now, or six months and two-and-a-half-weeks from now. You just have to know the trick.
Take any flat-bottomed broom (it can be angled or straight) with relatively stiff bristles, and stand it up so the bottom is flat on the floor. Try balancing it and letting go. If it won't stay upright by itself (some will, some won't, depending on weight, dimensions, and center of gravity), then push straight down, forcing the bristles to spread apart on each side (depending on the particular broom, you may have to use your fingers to spread the bristles evenly). Then gently let up on the downward pressure, balancing the broom upright as you release it. The spread bristles will contract somewhat but not completely, forming a relatively stable base which should allow the broom to continue standing by itself.
It may not work every time, or with every single broom, but in my case it worked on the very first try with the very first broom I grabbed. Try it yourself!
And while we're at it: egg balancing
The broom trick is a variation on the egg trick, the supposed "phenomenon" of raw eggs standing on end during an equinox (a date on which the earth and sun are aligned such that day and night are of equal length). Again, the positions of heavenly bodies play no real part in this balancing act. Patience, persistence, and careful egg selection do. Not an equinox goes by that people don't write to me and swear that this works which it does, of course, any day of the year you care to try it.