The zen of rock balancing

It’s fascinating what this man, Michael Grab, can do. And as it turns out, he lives right up the road in Boulder, a city with a seemingly endless supply of intriguing people and things.

My appreciation to Ronni Bennett at Time Goes By for finding this video.

Much more of Michael Grab’s work can be found on YouTube and at his website, GravityGlue.com.

23 comments

  1. That is totally amazing! I used to balance an uncooked egg on the more “pointy” end twice a year on the equinoxes. That’s when the gravity pull is perpendicular to the earth and makes this possible. And you can on a day or two before and after as the gravity pull angle is negligible. I always got a kick out of that – it would take a long time to finally find that balance spot. And then here comes this guy………

    “Angle of gravity pull? Pphhhttthh… I don’t let that get in my way.”

        1. Actually Michelle there is no such time as you suggest, and the equinox varies at every spot and at differents times of the year. The days we celebrate are those that are the easiest for the average person to follow, The tilt and rotation of the earth varies all the time. so it would be impossible for you or me to pick the exact moment of the equinox or solstice at the spot we are in at any given time on the appoximate day and time. It varies every centimetre on earth.

        2. It does exist. I actually learned this from one of my geology professors in college — I was study Earth Sciences then.

          Balancing the egg has some leeway to it. It doesn’t have anything to do with the tilt of the earth. That does vary slightly which is why there are both magnetic and geographic north/south poles. It’s the two times a year when the earth is positioned within it’s solar orbit so that sun hits the earth at a perpendicular angle . That means the gravitational pull is also perpendicular to the earth. I’m sure you know all this, but with there being two different rotations, I think it’s easy to mix up the facts between the two. Maybe it’s because of my age and I just don’t think about this stuff very often, maybe too many drugs in my youth, I dunno. Anyway, since gravity is perpendicular, everything is being pulled straight in.

          I also recall why it’s an egg as I was wondering why the rocks could balance any day… it has to do with the yolk – which is why this needs to be an uncooked egg. As the yolk can move, it will also have a gravity pull on it. So outside these two equinoxes, an uncooked egg will have two slightly different gravitation pulls to it, thus making it more difficult to balance.

          I imagine you can probably balance an uncooked any time of the year… it is just the easiest to do it on spring and fall equinoxes. The week before and after these two dates, the angle is negligible. I imagine, though, on the summer and winter equinox, to balance an egg would be horribly difficult — if not impossible. I’ve never tried it on those days.

          There are 2 conditions that must exist, though, for this balance to work properly. 1. Uncooked egg, 2. A balanced, horizontal table. And no cheating allowed… no little pile of salt to keep it from rolling, etc. No one likes a cheater.

          It’s a fun fact. On paper it works. In real life it works but doesn’t mean it won’t work the rest of the year, but it will be the easiest on those two days.

          Which brings me back to the rocks…. they are solid. There is no separate interior mass that will throw off the balancing. Ta da! Thanks! This discussion made me remember why it is an egg.

        3. My reasoning about the yolk making the egg have two different pulls may not be correct. I cannot remember why it specifically has to be an uncooked egg for this science to be correct, but I do remember my professor explaining why.

        4. Obviously PT what this young lady says is a myth, it is working on the assumption that all eggs are exactly the same size, shape and weight, and time never varies. Even Snopes cannot disagree with that statement. The egg thing is an urban myth

    1. I’m with Michelle on this one. I’ve heard her explanation many times and am pretty sure I’ve seen someone doing the egg-balancing thing (probably one of the men I used to work with!). Whether or not the equinox really is part of it (Snopes says no), I imagine it requires a pretty delicate touch to do it — something like rock balancing.

      1. There’s a lot of naysayers with this useless bit of trivia. I’ve tried it, it works. I haven’t been able to balance an egg outside of the two equinoxes, but I haven’t tried very often. But the professor that explained this to me was a very notable professor. Paleontology was his passion and he used to go on an excursion to the south pole every other year and take along a student. I would have loved to have gone but life was such that I wasn’t able to. Actually, I think the trip was cancelled when I was around that department. Anyway, I will believe him over Snopes any day.

    1. No, I didn’t notice. I’ll have to watch it again. It did think he must have amazingly steady hands to do this. And I was amazed that in many of the shots he’s barefoot. That water is glacier fed and pretty cold, even in late summer.

  2. Fantastic! I try to imagine the patience this must require. And realize, it’s not something I could do. But it’s calming to watch it, too.

    1. The sound of a stream has always been calming to me, so for me it may be the water more than the rock balancing. Hated when the bird took off and knocked over one of that row of stacks that he’d created. Must have taken forever to set them all up, and then the bird spoiled the picture.

      Hey, I’ll bet I could balance one little rock on top of one big rock …

    1. I don’t think it’s ever occurred to me to try to balance stuff like this. Perhaps that’s why I’m so amazed by it. It seems almost impossible, and yet look what he does!

    1. Grab takes many of the photos himself. Notice how he dribbles water over the rocks so they’ll glisten in the photos. It’s a small detail and yet it adds so much. It’s part of his artistry.

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