The Broom Challenge that went viral on numerous social media platforms on Monday was a hoax. Participants in the challenge claimed that according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) the Earth’s rotation would be “in perfect balance” on February 10 and it would be possible for a broom to balance standing up.
On Tik-Tok, Twitter and Instagram, users shared their videos and photos of brooms standing upright with no assistance. It appeared to be magic, but many people explained the phenomenon by saying it was linked to the Earth’s current gravitational pull and location in the universe. It is not a hoax that a broom can stand up on its own if balanced properly on the bristles, but it happens any day, not just on February 10.
Even the Milwaukee Bucks’ official Twitter account got in on the action.
Tim Akimoff tweeted, “Now if the damn thing would just start sweeping by itself. That would be really impressive. #broomchallenge”
Users online got especially creative once they were able to get their broom standing upright. Some danced around it as if it was a stripper pole from Hustlers, while others were merely transfixed by the standing broom as if it was being held up by a ghost.
There Is No Gravitational-Pull-Based Science That Causes a Broom to Stand Up on February 10
While it’s good, clean fun, this challenge is not based on any science, and NASA did not announce that because of the Earth’s gravitational pull around the spring equinox, brooms would suddenly be able to stand up straight. The spring equinox, also known as the vernal equinox, won’t occur until March 19, so it’s not clear why the story even went viral on February 10.
In an interview with Portal R7, published by Time 24 News, the director of the UNESP Astrophysics Institute, Rodolfo Langhi, said that there is no physical relationship with the fact that the brooms are standing.
“It depends on the base of the object. The heavier and wider it is, the greater the chances of standing,” Langhi said. “The same brooms that appear in the photos can be balanced at any time of the year.”
3News Chief Meteorologist Betsy Kling supported Langhi’s statements. “It’s just balance,” Kling said. “People think it’s special because at what other point in your life would you stop and try to balance a broom.”
So to summarize, brooms with a wide enough brush can stand up on their own regardless of the Earth’s location and level of gravitational pull between planets. The original mention of NASA’s announcement of The Broom Challenge Theory has yet to be located.
The NASA Broom Story Has Been Spread Online in the Past
This isn’t the first time claims have spread online that NASA said brooms can stand up on their own on the spring or vernal equinox. The story went viral as recently as 2018, according to LiveAbout.com. Google and social media search results show the story usually pops up in March, around the actual spring equinox, not in February. One 2012 CNN story explained that the myth went viral on Facebook and Twitter and that the broom would stand up every day. LiveAbout wrote:
For one thing, the spring equinox, which occurs every year in late March, has nothing to do with brooms standing on end. Neither do other planetary alignments. For example, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn aligned most recently in 2016, but astronomers say such events have negligible effects on earthly objects. The same brooms standing on end today will stand on end a week from now, a month from now, or four months from now, regardless of the positioning of the planets. You just have to know the trick.
Bradley Schaefer, an LSU physics and astronomy professor, told the LSU Reveille in 2012, “I can tell you very confidently that astronomically, the equinox has absolutely nothing to do with (it). Science is all about dispelling these old wives’ tales, these urban myths, these stupid Internet memes. The nature of science is to test reality.”
Schaefer added, “It’s a sociological question: How do these myths get started, and why are they propagating? If we pride ourselves on being in an information age, but most of the information is wrong, that bodes badly for society. You, me, we have to learn how to recognize stupidity and not pass it along.”
Another urban legend claims that eggs will balance on the spring equinox, which is also not based on science. Eggs will also stand up every day because the yolk moves to the bottom of the egg and balances it, according to CNN. It’s not a hoax that the broom and egg will stand up, but it happens any day.
If you want to try it yourself, LiveAbout gives some tips:
Take any flat-bottomed broom—it can be angled or straight—with relatively stiff bristles, and stand it up so that 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 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 that should allow the broom to continue standing by itself.
It might not work every time or with every broom, but, generally, it should work the first time you try it and likely with the first broom you grab.
Coastal Carolina University physics professor Teresa Burns told ABC 15 News in 2012 that the urban legends about brooms and eggs might have started because the spring equinox is a special day when the earth lines up with the sun’s axis and day and night are about equal length, hence, balance.
“We know that the vernal equinox has to do with the lining up of stuff and gravity, so, therefore, that is why we must be able to balance eggs on the vernal equinox,” Burns told the news station. “You have to try it other times, too, right? And that’s the important part of science, I think.”
Joe Ross, an astronomy and physics professor at Texas A&M, agreed, telling the Bryan-College Station Eagle in 2012, “One thing I can say with certainty, the pull of the moon has nothing to do with this phenomenon. I suspect that there may be some misconceptions to the effect that gravity becomes noticeably ’tilted’ as the Earth and moon move, but that effect is so minute as to be nonexistent.”
It’s Not the Only NASA-Based Conspiracy: There Are People Who Still Believe The Moon Landing Was A Hoax
On the complete opposite end of NASA hoaxes, perhaps the most famous is that Apollo 11 never happened. Conspiracy theorists contend that the moon landing was faked in 1969 because the United States was desperate to win the space race with the Soviet Union. Some argue it was all filmed in a television studio, maybe by Stanley Kubrick.
However, conspiracy theories that the moon landing is a hoax have been debunked. Snopes extensively debunked a theory that Kubrick confessed the moon landing was fake.
One of the key pieces of evidence debunking the conspiracy theory that the moon landing was a hoax: Footprints remain visible on the moon’s surface. According to BBC, the moon doesn’t have the atmospheric activity – such as rain and wind – that would have destroyed the footprints from moon mission astronauts.