Ice bucket challenge, mannequin challenge, Kiki challenge, bottle cap challenge, the list of crazy challenges that took the internet by storm is long! Joining the list is the new broomstick challenge.
Where did it all start?
On Monday (February 10) a tweet which claimed that NASA said a broomstick could be made to stand on its own only on that particular day went viral. Following this Twitter was choked with videos of people making broomsticks stand on its bristles and the hashtag #broomstickchallenge trending.
Okay so NASA said today was the only day a broom can stand up on its own because of the gravitational pull…I didn’t believe it at first but OMG! ????? pic.twitter.com/M0HCeemyGt
— mk (@mikaiylaaaaa) February 10, 2020
Some succeeded in the attempt while some failed. People were quick to be fascinated by the myth that this is possible only on one day in a whole year leading to several social media influencers and celebrities sharing their own broomstick challenge.
Pajama broom challenge ? What are you doing on a Monday Night?! #broomchallenge pic.twitter.com/1DU7q9bZp4
— Paula Abdul (@PaulaAbdul) February 11, 2020
The word spread that the broomstick stands upright without any support only on February 10 due to the planet’s apparent ‘gravitational pull’ on the vernal equinox.
What on earth is a vernal equinox?
A vernal equinox is when the sun is directly over the equator and the length of day and night is equal. It happens twice a year.
The challenge drove so many people crazy that NASA had to come out and declare it as a hoax! They tweeted a video of astronaut Alvin Drew and scientist Sarah Noble doing the broomstick challenge on February 11. The video shows them balancing the broom upright with astronaut Drew saying its just basic physics. It was captioned that ‘basic physics works every day of the year.’
Astronaut Alvin Drew and scientist Sarah Noble respond to the #BroomstickChallenge, showing that basic physics works every day of the year — not just February 10th. pic.twitter.com/4TTbI3mvzd
— NASA (@NASA) February 11, 2020
Also, a vernal equinox had nothing to do with the gravitational pull as the equinox takes place only March 20 or 21 in the northern hemisphere. It is simple science that the centre of gravity of gravity is low on a broom and rests directly over the bristles, which has a larger surface area. Which means it involves the simple concept of balance!
But wait, vernal equinox sounds so mystic and easier to believe right?
Pseudoscience is not region specific. Drawing similar lines to the broomstick challenge, in Dindigul district in Tamil Nadu, people believe that it is possible for a rice pestle to stand on its own only during solar eclipse.
Recently during an annular solar eclipse on December 26, 2019 an elderly woman in Dindigul claimed that rice pestles stand unsupported due to gravitational pull only during the eclipse and that it was a tradition done as per religious beliefs.
However, scientists rubbished these claims too saying that a pounder with a flat base can stand on smooth surface for several minutes and that it had nothing to do with the eclipse.