Despite an array of social media posts on Monday claiming otherwise, UF physics professors say your broom can stand on its own any day of the year.
The #BroomChallenge trend stemmed from a viral tweet that claimed NASA said Monday was the only day a broom could stand on its own due to Earth’s gravitational pull. Since Monday, curious people have shared photos and videos of their upright brooms or attempts at the challenge.
On Tuesday, NASA clarified in a tweet, “There’s no special gravity that affects brooms, but the moon’s gravity creates tides on Earth.”
Imre Bartos, an assistant physics professor at UF, credits the reason people can balance their brooms to a concept called “center of mass.” He said brooms can stand by themselves because their center of mass is located at the bottom, toward its bristles.
However, Bartos said the day of the year will not change how easy it is for a broom to stand on its own. Gravitational forces “do not change on any level that would be relevant to brooms,” he said.
Danielle Sleight, a 20-year-old UF nutritional sciences junior, first saw posts about standing brooms on Snapchat Monday evening.
Sleight attempted the challenge after midnight when she saw the trend again on Twitter. She said she wasn’t surprised to discover it still worked.
“It’s interesting because everyone just automatically believed it,” Sleight said.
Darin Acosta, another UF physics professor, said that while the moon’s gravitational influence does affect ocean tides, the tidal forces are too weak to influence something like a broom standing on its own.
Acosta said the concept of center of mass can be displayed by tipping a glass full of water on a table.
“If you tip it just a little bit, it usually will fall back to settle on the table,” he said. “If you tip it too far, it’s going to fall all the way over.”
Similarly, as long as the broom’s center of mass is low, it shouldn’t fall over, Acosta said.
“This is a really nice topic for my physics 1 class,” Acosta said. “We are going to cover center of mass next week, so that’s great timing.”
Contact Sarah Mandile at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @sarahmandile.