Why does only one egg crack in an egg cracking contest?
April 17, 2006 7:56 PM   Subscribe

So every Easter my family has an egg cracking contest using hardboiled eggs. You pair off with a partner, smash your eggs together, and whoever's egg does not crack goes on to the next round until you are left with one winner. My question is, why does only one egg break? They never both crack, no matter how they are smashed together.

Also as a side-question, is there anything that can be done that would give someone an advantage in this game? I have tried looking for sharply pointed eggs, trying to hit the other person's egg with different parts of my egg, trying to find the coldest egg, etc. It all seems to be just luck.
posted by banished to Science & Nature (33 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: ...activating Male Answer Syndrome hat: engaged!

You're pushing two eggs into one another, and some amount has to give. Your question is why all that amount comes from one egg. My guess would be that once the eggshell on one cracks, it becomes much softer, enough so that it doesn't have enough integrity to break the other eggshell.
posted by Aknaton at 8:16 PM on April 17, 2006

minor derail:

Where did your family get this tradition? The only people I've met that play this game are Persian, and they do it not for Easter but for Nowrooz (Persian New Year).
posted by anjamu at 8:25 PM on April 17, 2006

I'm half Greek and the Greek Orthodox Christians do the egg cracking dueling thingee...the Easter holiday never meant much to me--- but the egg cracking competition was hella fun. One year I used some clear nail hardening polish my Mom had on the egg ...it didn't help as I recall. But my efforts to prep my egg for sunday domination brings back some cool memories.
posted by stavx at 8:37 PM on April 17, 2006

Where did your family get this tradition?

Mine does it - I always thought it was a (Romanian) Orthodox thing. Amazing to see it referenced on metafilter. I always try to hit the side of the other person's egg, and seem to win more than my fair share.
posted by loquax at 8:38 PM on April 17, 2006

My SO's family (Anglo-Saxon Aussies, anjamu, though living in a Greek/Aus neighbourhood) used to do this. So I asked her.

Firstly, she says that she has seen cases of both eggs breaking.

For the side question, she advises:

-don't move your egg - the more movement they have the more likely to break
-check where the air bubble is and use the opposite side.

I believe her sister used to freeze her egg the night before, but I think that's fairly obviously cheating...
posted by pompomtom at 8:38 PM on April 17, 2006

Weakest link principle. Pull on a chain, and only one link will break. That's because the forces are immediately released on the other links that were close to breaking. However, some brittle materials will break differently. Dry spaghetti will never break into just two pieces. Bend a piece and try it.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:53 PM on April 17, 2006

Best answer: I'll take a stab at expanding on Aknaton's essentially correct (I think) answer. I imagine the single most important variable is shell thickness. Clearly the thinner-shelled egg is going to start breaking first, at a lower level of force - as soon as it starts to break, it becomes simultaneously easier to break further and softer - so it's never going to manage to break the thicker shelled egg. As to winning technique or egg type, I doubt it, if my theory is correct. Unless you can come up with some way to determine a thicker shelled egg.
posted by nanojath at 8:53 PM on April 17, 2006

Serbs do it too. I second looking for the air bubble and using the other side.
posted by lilybeane at 8:55 PM on April 17, 2006

hard boiled ostrich egg.
posted by MadamM at 9:03 PM on April 17, 2006

weapons-grade pandemonium: "... Dry spaghetti will never break into just two pieces. Bend a piece and try it."

Funny you should mention that problem, weapons-grade pandemonium- two scientific papers were published in the (rather prestigious) journal Physical Review Letters last year.
posted by JMOZ at 9:40 PM on April 17, 2006

If you really want to win you could fill an egg shell with epoxy...
posted by phrontist at 9:47 PM on April 17, 2006

Or get it really cold with dry ice!
posted by phrontist at 9:47 PM on April 17, 2006

You can see nanojath's principle in action (without the mess) by cracking unshelled pecans against each other in your hand. Place two next to each other lengthwise in your palm and squeeze; the shell of one always breaks before the other. Mmm...
posted by mediareport at 9:51 PM on April 17, 2006

Response by poster: anjamu, good question! I'll have to ask, I hope to report back tomorrow.

loquax - We consider hitting the side of the egg to be cheating, but I'm not sure we based that rule on any strong confirmation of that strategy working consistently.

I would definitely tell anyone to try this with their own friends / family if they want to try something new for Easter next year. It's a lot of fun.
posted by banished at 9:54 PM on April 17, 2006

loquax - We consider hitting the side of the egg to be cheating

Oh I know! The trick is the quick, almost imperceptible flick of the wrist at the last second and catching enough of the top so that it's not obvious ;)
posted by loquax at 10:18 PM on April 17, 2006

Armenians do it! I played the game in Armenia all day on Easter Sunday.

Perhaps the Persians borrowed it from Armenians?

I've heard that Persian Armenians played the game because Easter was the one day of the year that they were allowed to gamble. But that could just be rumor.

Photos of eggs in Armenia.
posted by k8t at 12:19 AM on April 18, 2006

I was a guest at an Easter dinner with an egg-cracking contest in western Ukraine four years ago. You only cracked against your neighbors around the table, and there was some business about predicting a lucky year for those who survived uncracked, though I don't remember all the details. FWIW on the culture question, they were / had recently been 'Greek Catholic', which basically means administratively Catholic but culturally Russian Orthodox. There's no guarantee that this was all according to ancient tradition; one notable exception is that they had used wax-resist decorating techniques on boiled eggs (traditional pysanky are raw, and only simple red krashanky are boiled).

OTOH, mediareport is the first time I've heard of a person not in my immediate family cracking nuts by hand. It's pecans with us, too, though I also open walnuts and almonds in similar ways. It's a handy technique.
posted by eritain at 12:35 AM on April 18, 2006

It ia common game played during tradional Easter dinners among members of the Finnish Orthodox Church.
posted by keijo at 12:50 AM on April 18, 2006

This is fairly obvious cheating, but quite fun. Put an egg in vinegar, or any other household acid. The shell will slowly dissolve, leaving a weaker shell. If you wait a few days, you can even squeeze the egg. More fun at eggsperiments.
posted by Psychnic at 1:45 AM on April 18, 2006

I know someone who does this with m&ms to find the strongest piece of candy ever.
posted by juv3nal at 2:45 AM on April 18, 2006

Juv—I've played that game, but it fails from a logic standpoint. Just because one M&M can defeat an M&M that has defeated all other M&M's doesn't make it the strongest. That slayer M&M didn't have to beat the dozens of other M&M's that came before them.

Just sayin', if you don't use a standard single elimination seed/tree/whatever tournament-style setup, you're only deluding yourself.

posted by disillusioned at 4:55 AM on April 18, 2006

I know someone who does this with m&ms to find the strongest piece of candy ever.

posted by martinrebas at 4:56 AM on April 18, 2006


posted by martinrebas at 4:57 AM on April 18, 2006

My Armenian family plays this game every Easter and the only way to guarantee a win is to cheat. My cousin used clear nail polish one year and beat everyone. Alas that meant he had to take over 2 dozen hard boiled eggs home (he was 15 and wasn't excited about making egg salad).
posted by jdl at 5:37 AM on April 18, 2006

I was a guest at a neighbor's easter dinner and everyone had an egg as a placeholder, and one of the guests brought up the egg cracking tradition. I was also kind of amazed that only one egg cracked each time. I think the real key to winning is being at the end of the line :) - the version we played went 'round in a circle, winner going on to next contestant. I was second to last to play, so I only had to defeat two eggs to be queen...

why my egg didn't crack and my opponents' did isn't clear, but my strategy, such as it was, was to lightly squeeze to strengthen the integrity of the egg-shape, and to absorb any shock in my hands. but i expect it was just luck.
posted by mdn at 5:51 AM on April 18, 2006

Serbs do it too.

Serbs do it, bees do it, even educated fleas do it. Let's do it. Let's smash some hard-boiled eggs together.
posted by kirkaracha at 6:36 AM on April 18, 2006

My family plays this game as well, but I'm not sure if it's a family tradition from the Protestant German-Polish side or the Roman Catholic Italo-Austrian side.

I introduced my SO to the game this year. "Bragging rights" is either a totally foreign concept in Italian or an unacceptable prize for the male dominance gene... ;)
posted by romakimmy at 6:45 AM on April 18, 2006

oh, and i think the guy that introduced it was from tennessee... if there was any eastern european/middle east influence, it wasn't explicit.
posted by mdn at 7:34 AM on April 18, 2006

Oh. We were supposed to use hardboiled eggs! Sorry about the rug, Mom.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:20 AM on April 18, 2006

Ok, this is way off topic, but about mediareport's answer involving shelled and unshelled pecans, which ones have a shell? Are "shelled" and "unshelled" another set of those words that mean the same thing? I got confused.
posted by orangemiles at 11:15 AM on April 18, 2006

also way off-topic, but just to respond to this:

that may certainly be the origin of it, but I've actually seen him do it, not just heard a story about it.
posted by juv3nal at 3:20 PM on April 18, 2006

Response by poster: Ok, so apparently the tradition goes back to my grandparents parents. They may have picked it up from the surrounding Detroit area, but no one is really sure. My mom said the first time she ever heard of anyone else doing this contest was in the novel Middlesex, about an androgynous male/female, and she was so excited to see it actually mentioned somewhere, although she said the novel was not so great.
posted by banished at 6:37 PM on April 18, 2006

orangemiles, "shelling" is the act of taking the shell off a pecan, so if you have yet to take the shell off, the pecan is "unshelled." I know, I know, using "shell" as a noun reverses the meaning. That's how you tell which usage means which, though.
posted by mediareport at 5:50 PM on April 22, 2006

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