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We may not be sure who’s behind it, but we can tell you that the Charlie Charlie Challenge doesn’t really work. Because physics.

Very, very special thanks to Henry Reich of Minute Physics for helping with the content of this video.
https://www.youtube.com/user/minutephysics

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Ladies and gentlemen before your very eyes, I will use science to explain something that is seemingly beyond the realm of science. Something so unscientific that only Hollywood could have come up with it. Something so beyond the reach of reason that most people think that it cannot be explained with rational thought.

I'm talking about the Internet parlor trick that many of you have been asking about: The Charlie Charlie Challenge. The "trick" if you can even call it that involves taking two ordinary pencils and balancing one on top of the other to make an X. If you put those two pencils on a piece of paper that has stuff written on it like Yes and No, then the theory goes if you start asking questions out loud, the top pencil will move. Move, I say, and point to the supposed answer to your question.

So how does it work? You blow on the pencil. If the trick works at all it only seems to work when you put your face really close to the pencils and ask them something really loud. And you may have noticed that when you speak, breath comes out of your face.

Somewhat frustratingly, a few media outlets have tried to explain what is behind the so-called "Charlie Charlie Challenge" by attributing the movement of the pencil to a force that does not apply here, gravity. I mean gravity applies, it applies to everything that has mass, even some things that don't have mass.

But some explanations have suggested that the pencil swings around because gravity is pulling on one end of the pencil more than the other, because, like, the end with the eraser is heavier than the end with the point, or because the table isn't perfectly level. Yeah, gravity is always exerted on every part of an object, it doesn't know the eraser from the point, but the eraser end is more massive you might say. Yes, well, remember the top pencil is balanced, by definition the fact that it is balanced means that its mass is distributed evenly. That's also why it doesn't matter if the surface is perfectly flat. Even when the bottom pencil isn't level, the top one can still balance which means that its mass is still distributed evenly and feeling the effects of gravity equally.

When a pencil, or anything, is balanced, it is said to be in mechanical equilibrium, that just means that the sum of all the forces acting on it equals 0. So the gravity is pulling the top pencil down, and the bottom one is pushing it back up. And as long as the sum of the forces remains 0, it won't move. So, Newton's first law stipulates that the only way to get the pencil to move is to exert another force on it. Like very simply, just blowing on the pencil. That's where the breathing or the blowing or the other trickery comes in. I mean it's not a challenge. It is a trick. It's barely even a trick.

So you can go on living in a world where ghosts are all around us, and for some reason can only communicate with us by way of school supplies, or you can live in the normal world, where objects at rest, stay at rest unless acted upon by a force.

Thanks for watching this peculiar episode of SciShow News, if there's any science in the news that you'd like us to explain, or science in the Internet meme-o-sphere that you'd like to understand better, let us know in the comments below. In the meantime, thank you for watching and thank you to all of our patrons on Patreon, who make this possible for us to talk about how dumb things are on the Internet sometimes. If you want to help us out, you can go to patreon.com/scishow, and find out about cool stuff you can get there, and if you want to keep getting smarter with us, you can go to youtube.com/scishow and subscribe.