510: Egg Drop Failure

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Egg Drop Failure
I hear my brother Ricky won his school's egg drop by leaving the egg inside the hen.
Title text: I hear my brother Ricky won his school's egg drop by leaving the egg inside the hen.


A common competition for school-age children (e.g. in science fairs or summer camps) is the 'egg drop': each team is given an unbroken egg (either raw or boiled, and usually of a chicken), and may be provided with an assortment of materials, e.g. newspaper, popsicle sticks, string, tape, etc. The challenge is to build a contraption that will allow the egg to be dropped from some specified height onto a hard surface without breaking. In some competitions, the rules permit the contraption to be constructed from any available materials; other times, it is limited to only the materials that have been provided. Scoring varies wildly - common elements are speed of assembly, mass of the contraption, creativity of design (as determined by judging or voting), and/or accuracy of landing within a target area - but one near-universal rule is disqualification if the egg's shell is broken.

In the comic, the competitor fails, not because of any flaw in his design, but because the egg hatches unexpectedly during the fall. In reality, the hatching process usually takes many hours[1][2] — much longer than the few seconds of a typical egg drop; furthermore, the newborn chick cannot fly immediately. However, if it were to magically happen as in the comic, then the competitor would be disqualified because the egg technically broke when the chick hatched from it.

The title text suggests an alternate strategy, one Randall hears was successful in real life: select for your egg one that has not yet been laid. The hen provides both active lift with her wings and significant padding with her body and feathers, thus nearly guaranteeing that the egg will survive the fall. But the chicken may not be permitted in some contests if it is not one of the allowed materials. And even if it were, a chicken might be heavier than the usual contraptions of newspaper and string,[citation needed] so it might lose anyway if weight is one of the scoring criteria.


[Boy tosses contraption off of building with egg in it.]
[Egg cracks and little chick flies out while people look quizzically at the hatched egg.]
Egg: Crack
Chick: Chirp, chirp
[Device with cracked egg lands on ground.]


  1. "How to Incubate Chicken Eggs". Modern Farmer. April 9, 2015. Archived from the original on January 2, 2020. Retrieved January 30, 2020. "It is normal at this point for the chick to rest for six to 12 hours while its lungs adjust before continuing to hatch."
  2. "Step by Step Guide to ASSISTED Hatching". BackYard Chickens. March 11, 2017. Retrieved January 30, 2020. "Some [chicks] pip internally and fully hatch in hours while others will be 24 hours or more."

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Newborn birds can't fly. I call shenanigans on this comic. Davidy22(talk) 11:08, 22 November 2012 (UTC)

The contraption was so well built that it took several months for it to land; hence the hatching and ability to fly. flewk (talk) 00:42, 4 January 2016 (UTC)

Oh, so that's where the soup comes from! 09:29, 26 August 2015 (UTC)

I was adding a citation, but after a bit of research, an average ethiopian chicken apparently checks all the boxes in at least one egg drop competition, as long as you can fit a large grade A egg in there.-- 06:01, 16 July 2022 (UTC)