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Walking on Eggs

Can you walk across eggs without cracking them?

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The phrase “walking on eggshells” is an idiom that is often used to describe a situation in which people must tread lightly around a sensitive topic for fear of offending someone or creating a volatile situation. Literally walking on eggshells would require exceptional caution, incredible skill, and a sense of self-control that would be nothing short of amazing. But what if eggs were really much stronger than most of us imagine? What if nature’s design of the incredible edible egg was so perfect that the thin, white outer coating of an egg was strong enough to withstand the weight of your body? Wake the kids! Phone the neighbors! It’s time for the Walking on Eggshells challenge.

Materials
  • A few dozen eggs that are in egg cartons (Select large-sized eggs)
  • Large plastic trash bag
  • Bucket of soap and water (and some disinfectant)
  • Barefoot friends

Videos

  • Walking On Eggs - Sick Science! #069
Print Experiment

Experiment

  1. If you just want to attempt the feat of standing on eggs, you’ll only need two cartons of eggs (two dozen eggs). If, however, you’re feeling up to the Walking on Eggs challenge, pick up six or eight cartons of large-sized eggs.
  2. Spread the plastic trash bag (or bags) out on the floor and arrange the egg cartons into two rows.
  3. Inspect all of the eggs to make sure there are no breaks or fractures in any of the eggshells. Make any replacements that might be necessary.
  4. It’s important to make sure all of the eggs are oriented the same way in the cartons too. One end of the egg is more “pointy” while the other end is more round. Just make sure that all of the eggs are oriented in the same direction. By doing this, your foot will have a more level surface on which to stand.
  5. Remove your shoes and socks . . . and pick the lint out from between your toes. (This has no bearing on the success of the challenge, but let’s face it, toe fuzz is kind of gross.)
  6. Find a friend to assist you as you step up onto the first carton of eggs. The key is to make your foot as flat as possible in order to distribute your weight evenly across the tops of the eggs. If the ball of your foot is large, you might try positioning it between two rows of eggs instead of resting it on the top of an egg. 
  7. When your foot is properly positioned, slowly shift all of your weight onto the egg-leg as you position your other foot on top of the second carton of eggs.
  8. There will be creaking sounds coming from the egg carton, but don’t get nervous. Ask your friend to step away and allow your fans to click pictures. Just think . . . for all the right reasons, you’ll be an Internet sensation in just minutes.
  9. If you have more than two cartons of eggs, what are you waiting for? Keep walking! The cheers and wild screams from your fans grow louder with each step you take until finally you land on firm ground and marvel at your success. 

Okay, there’s a second scenario that we should mention: you forget to make your foot as flat as possible, your friend doesn’t provide any support, and your foot crushes through eight of the twelve eggs. As the goo erupts from between your toes, you think to yourself, “Maybe the other carton will be better.” Quickly you discover that both feet are covered in eggy goo and the experiment is a complete failure. Don’t worry, your fans are still taking pictures and you’re still going to be an Internet sensation, but for a completely different reason. Ah, show business!

How Does It Work?

Plain and simple, the shape of the egg is the secret! The egg’s unique shape gives it tremendous strength, despite its seeming fragility. Eggs are similar in shape to a three-dimensional arch, one of the strongest architectural forms. The egg is the strongest at the top and the bottom (or at the highest point of the arch). If you hold an egg in your hand and squeeze it on the top and the bottom, the egg doesn’t break because you are adding pressure to the ends which are the strongest parts of the egg. The curved form of the shell also distributes pressure evenly all over the shell rather than concentrating it at any one point. If you completely surround the egg with your hand and then squeeze, the pressure you apply by squeezing is distributed evenly all over the egg. However, eggs do not stand up well to uneven forces, which is why they crack easily on the side of a bowl (or why it would crack if you just pushed on one side). This also explains how a hen can sit on an egg and not break it, but a tiny little chick can break through the eggshell. The weight of the hen is evenly distributed over the egg, while the pecking of the chick is an uneven force directed at just one spot on the egg. 
 
If you guessed that the egg carton probably played a role in keeping the eggs from breaking, you’re right. Joseph Coyle is credited as the inventor of the first container made specifically to keep eggs from breaking as they were transported from the local farm to the store. As the story goes, Coyle invented the egg carton in 1911 as a way to solve a dispute between a farmer and a hotel operator who blamed the farmer for delivering broken eggs. Coyle designed a container made out of thick paper with individual divots that supported each egg from the bottom while keeping the eggs separated from one another. As legend has it, the fully loaded egg carton can even be dropped, and if it lands just right, the eggs will survive the fall.

Additional Info

Science Fair Connection:
 
Walking on Eggshells would make an "eggcellent" and very dramatic science fair project. An effective science fair experiment changes something, creates a new experiment, and then compares results. In this case, you've already proven that you can walk on eggs and not break them. Very cool, but that's really just a demonstration. Now you have to add a variable, run some new tests, and compare the results. 
 
Here are some variables you might want to consider:
  • Instead of standing on the eggs, place a board or tile on top of a dozen eggs and then stand on or walk across the board. Do the eggs break? 
  • Test the strength of the eggs by stacking books one at a time on top of the board which is set on top of the eggs. How much weight can you put on the board before the eggs break? In other words, how heavy is too heavy? How does that weight compare to your weight as you walked across the eggs? 
  • When stacking books onto the board, does it make any difference how the books are arranged? Does one particular arrangement cause more eggs to break?
  • Upside-down plastic soda bottle caps can be used in place of an egg carton to keep the eggs in an upright position while you’re attempting your strength test. Does using the upside-down soda bottle caps have any impact on the "breakability" of the eggs? Do the eggs break more easily when they are in the bottle caps than when they are in the egg carton? Why or why not?
  • Try arranging the eggs into an “X” pattern instead of in rows to fully support the board. How much weight will five eggs support before cracking under the pressure? Does the number of eggs you use make a difference? Does the positioning of the eggs in the carton make a difference?
Ask yourself any of these questions and run some tests to find the answer. Standardize the conditions as much as possible, change one thing at a time, document the effect of the variable on the eggs, and make some conclusions about the amazing strength of eggs. This is definitely an "eggceptional" science fair experiment!

Customer Reviews

So FUN!!!! Review by kelly
54321

This was so fun that I am going to have an Egg Day for a science class that I'm teaching. The instructions say to have someone help you onto them. I'm going to have an adult on either side of the kids at first so they can be helped up and get the idea of weight distribution.

(Posted on January 4, 2012)

Fun! Review by Charliene
54321

We just did this and it was a lot of fun! My 10yo son tried first and broke some eggs. Then I tried and didn't break any. My son then tried again and did it perfectly. My HUSBAND then tried and CRUSHED an entire carton in one fell swoop while simultaneously embedding a piece of shell into his foot!!! :O My 3yo daughter walked across too w/ no breaks. Then my son, with what eggs were left, walked across again and again with no problem.

(Posted on May 30, 2012)

Eggs are strong Review by Leanne
54321

We followed the instructions. Except for the fact that my foot stuck to the eggs when I picked it up, things worked fine. The kids wore socks when they walked across (about 7 times each) and we never lost an egg.

My kids are 5 and 7 and looked forward to trying this.

(Posted on July 12, 2012)

Science Fair project Review by Lucky1116
54321

Our 10 year old daughter decided to do this as a science fair project. We had our son and two neighbor kids also perform the walking on eggs. Our variable was the size of the kid. The four kids weighed 95.5 lbs (with 5 eggs broken on her first try), 49.5 lbs (with one egg broken), 57.5 lbs (with 0 eggs broken) and finally 48.5 (with 0 eggs broken). Our 95.5 lb daughter wanted to try it again and with this go around she only broke one egg. It seemed that they eggs broke only when the kids hurried and all eggs that were damaged were in the first carton or last carton. The most broken in her first time were at the very last carton, 4 eggs were damaged. This was very fun and the neighbors enjoied being involved!

(Posted on November 11, 2012)

Eggcelent Review by Ruth and Silas
54321

On spring equinox rumour has it you can balance an egg on its end.Well we tried this and found, not surprisingly, you can't. So next we tried a different kind of egg balancing. As you can see from the picture this was a success, Silas (aged 3) only broke one and that was right at the start when he got a surprise because the eggs "feel funny and cold" and stepped back quickly. After that it was plain sailing.

(Posted on March 20, 2013)

Fun for the whole family Review by alex
54321

Thank you for the terrific science lesson. I did it with my six year old and three year old (we just did standing on eggs, not walking on them), and it was a great lesson about how the scientific theory worked as well. I had them formulate an hypothesis about what would happen if we walked on eggs, then we did the experiment, and came out with our conclusions. So fun!

(Posted on January 9, 2012)

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