Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 7 April 2020

What is the #BroomChallenge? Why the online craze is definitely a hoax

The craze relies on a dubious claim from Nasa that the Earth was on a perfect tilt on February 10, where a broom will stand on its own

The mascot from the Milwaukee Bucks basketball team takes on the #BroomChallenge. Courtesy Milwaukee Bucks / Twitter
The mascot from the Milwaukee Bucks basketball team takes on the #BroomChallenge. Courtesy Milwaukee Bucks / Twitter

It's been a minute since a hashtag-inspired craze, ahem, swept the internet, inviting copycats the world over to emulate an (usually fairly mundane) exploit and video the proof for all to see.

And so it was that February 10 (February 11 in the UAE) became the day that social media decided the #BroomChallenge would be the next undertaking for anyone with a tall brush and a spare few minutes to have their minds blown.

So what exactly is this tedious sounding hashtag that champions the use of a customary household item?

Basically, punters partaking in the #BroomChallenge are charged with balancing a broom on its bristles, to the point where it stands vertically on its own. Naturally, this feat is then videoed or photographed and then posted triumphantly on the internet.

Sure, it's an impressive use of a cleaning tool – but why now, you may ask?

Well, if you were to believe social media, it has all seemingly stemmed from a rather reputable source: none other than Nasa.

Many #BroomChallenge participants are quoting the same dubious claim that February 10 is the day the Earth is at a perfect tilt on its axis, thus demonstrated by the capability of a broom to stand on its own.

One viral tweet, perhaps the challenge pioneer, has had 3.6 million views at the time of writing.

"Okay so Nasa said today was the only day a broom can stand up on its own because of the gravitational pull... I didn't believe it at first but OMG" the tweet says, before documenting the user's own experience of standing a broom upright in the middle of a room, seemingly unaided.

Where exactly that quip from Nasa can be found, it isn't immediately clear. Certainly not their own official channels – they're far too busy with tweeting about their 2021 budget and putting payloads on the Moon.

But as with most "challenges" that are posted on the internet (ice bucket, planking, cinnamon challenges, I'm looking at you), people ran with it anyway.

As did many a celebrity – rapper Future, Ally Brooke of girl group Fifth Harmony, and even the Milwaukee Bucks basketball team even got in on the action.

So is February 10 really a magical day for gravity?

Not exactly. In fact, you can succeed with the #BroomChallenge on any day of the year. Brooms apparently have a low centre of gravity, meaning they can stand unaided relatively easily.

Pete Delkus, chief meteorologist at television station WFAA-TV in Dallas, Texas, perhaps explains it best in a video demonstration.

"It has nothing at all to do with the gravitational pull or anything like that," Delkus says.

"A broom has a low centre of gravity and the bristles on it are acting like a tripod. All you need is the right broom and the right surface and boom you can do this too."

Besides, it's not exactly a new idea. Turbo, otherwise known as Michael "Boogaloo Shrimp" Chambers popularised the broom and its gravity-defying abilities way back in 1984.

That was the year that the movie Breakin' came out, and nestled within it, that famous dancing broom scene, in which Turbo balances a broom on its bristles, unaided, and dances around it.

Perhaps the cinematography kicked in towards the end of that scene, though, because it does end with the brush really defying gravity and flying through the air.

Updated: February 11, 2020 10:38 AM

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