Don't Get Swept Up by the #BroomstickChallenge

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In a situation no one saw coming, a tweet about brooms and physics went viral last week. And in an even more unlikely scenario, social media feeds nationwide started to fill with pictures of ... brooms.

The Tweet, from user @mikaiylaaaaa, claimed that Feb. 10 was the only day that a broom would stand up on its own, thanks to the unique angle of the Earth’s gravitational pull on that day. Apparently, NASA wanted everyone to know and get in on the fun.

An accompanying video showed a broom eerily standing on its own, and the #brookstickchallenge was born. Everyone wanted to see for themselves whether their brooms would indeed give into the rapid force of Earth’s pull.

Spoiler: It Was a Hoax

It didn’t take NASA long to set the record straight and let everyone know that the hoax tweet didn't come from them. Turns out, a broom standing up on its own has nothing to do with the Earth’s gravitational pull.

Many brooms have a bristly, and relatively heavy, bunch of fibers on one end, connected to a much lighter, thin handle. The shape is similar to a tripod, where the lower center of gravity at the bottom is able to hold up the lighter top.

Earth's gravitational pull is responsible for many things – like creating tides or, you know, allowing us to stay planted on the ground – but it doesn't really have anything to do with whether brooms fall down.

Go ahead and try it – you’ll likely find that with the right positioning and balance, you can make a broom stand on its own any day of the year.

But this Idea Didn’t Come from Nowhere

This variety of hoax has been around for a while now. There’s an old wive’s tale that eggs are able to stand on their slimmer end on both equinoxes. That’s not true, and it’s a less fun one to try at home, unless your idea of fun is cleaning up cracked eggs.

As NASA itself noted, the hoax is a harmless one. Trying to make a broom stand up any day of the year can be fun. But it’s still helpful to know your science before you get swept away by any hoaxes (yes, pun intended).

About the Author

Rachelle Dragani is a freelance writer based in Brooklyn with extensive experience covering the latest innovation and development in the world of science. Her pieces on topics including DNA sequencing, tissue engineering and stem cell advances have been featured in publications including BioTechniques: the International Journal of Life Science Methods, Popular Mechanics, Futurism and Gizmodo.