This is a question that has been bugging us at work.
What would happen to a chicken egg in space? Equally interesting is the question what would happen to a chicken egg if placed in a vacuum chamber?
Eggshells are able to withstand quite large forces from the outside because of their dome structure, but are not so strong from the inside. This makes sense - they need to be strong enough to withstand the force of the mother chook sitting on them, but need to be fragile enough from the inside for the baby chick to escape. If placed into a vacuum, would the pressure of the small amount of air inside the egg be enough to break the shell? Let's assume for the sake of argument that the egg was laid at normal atmospheric pressure.
Other things to consider include temperature. Would the egg white and egg yolk freeze and therefore expand? This could break the shell. Is there enough empty space inside the egg into which the mainly water interior could expand? Or would this happen too suddenly? Is temperature actually a factor?
Or perhaps a sudden change in pressure might cause the interior to rapidly boil, exploding the egg? Water only boils at 100 degrees at normal atmospheric pressure - the more you lower the pressure, the lower the temperature that water boils at. For instance, at the top of Mount Everest, the boiling point of water is 69 degrees. Human blood would boil in space except for the fact that our skin is strong enough to protect our blood from the rapid drop in pressure. Is an eggshell similarly strong, or is it too permeable?
Is there a difference between the scenario where the egg is in space - let's say at about the Earth's orbit - and so is heated by the Sun (or at least half of it), and in a vacuum chamber where there is no heat source?
As much as we like to ponder these questions, we don't have an answer. What do you think? Please feel free to speculate and throw ideas into the mix.
For extra reading, check out the references for work conducted on hatching chickens in low gravity, and also hypergravity.
SUDA, T., ABE, E., SHINKI, T., KATAGIRI, T., YAMAGUCHI, A., YOKOSE, S., YOSHIKI, S., HORIKAWA, H., COHEN, G., & YASUGI, S. (1994). The role of gravity in chick embryogenesis FEBS Letters, 340 (1-2), 34-38 DOI: 10.1016/0014-5793(94)80168-1
Jones SM, Warren LE, Shukla R, Browning A, Fuller CA, & Jones TA (2000). The effects of hypergravity and substrate vibration on vestibular function in developing chickens. Journal of gravitational physiology : a journal of the International Society for Gravitational Physiology, 7 (3), 31-44 PMID: 12124183