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Dr. Edward Ritter Office 316 White Hall Hours: MWF 10:30AM-11:30AM, R 2:00PM-4:00PM Email:

Archimedes Archimedes Principle Buoyancy Density of Fluid and Solids Density vs. Avg. Density Demo of Archimedes Scale

You will need to calculate the number of quarters in a plastic box based upon the displacement of water.


Archimedes of Syracuse (ca. 287-ca. 212 BC) Greek mathematician who flourished in Sicily. He is generally considered to be the greatest mathematician of ancient times. Most of the facts about his life come from a biography about the Roman soldier Marcellus written by the Roman biographer Plutarch.

Archimedes was also an outstanding engineer, formulating Archimedes' principle of buoyancy and the law of the lever. Legend has it that Archimedes discovered his principle of buoyancy, which states that the buoyancy force is equal to the weight of the liquid displaced, while taking a bath, upon which he is supposed to have run naked through the streets of Syracuse shouting "Eureka!" (I have found it). Archimedes is also purported to have invented the Archimedean screw.


The weight of an object that FLOATS in a fluid is equal to the weight of the fluid that is displaced by that object.

The numbers on the hull allow the weight of the cargo to be easily determined from the volume of water displaced by the barge.


The Oasis of the Sea weighs 100,000 Tons. How much water does this displace (in ft3)? If it weighs 100,000 Tons, how does it float?

Water has the density of 1 g/cc Steel has the density of 7.8 g/cc

So how can a steel ship float? Average Density


How does a massive object such as a ship float? The average density calculated as the weight of the ship divided by the volume of the ships hull is less than the density of the water. This happens because of the fact that the ship is filled with air inside. The buoyant force is equal to the weight of the fluid that is displaced by the object. Even an object that sinks has a buoyancy force equal to the weight of the fluid displaced.

What is the weight of 1 ft3 of steel in lbf?

7.8g/cc = 486.94 lbm/ft3 Multiply by g/gc = 1 lbf/lbm gives 486.94 lbf

What does it weigh if in seawater if seawater has a density of 64.1 lbm/ft3? Ans: 486.94 lbf-64.1 lbm/ft3*1ft3*1lbf/lbm = 422.84 lbf


As you can see, steel is much more dense than seawater. Steel ships only float because their average density is less than water because their hulls prevent water from filling the vessels. If a ship gets a hole in the hull, it will sink just like the Titanic or the Costa Concordia. Boats can be made from very dense materials as long as they have a large enough volume of air inside them that their average density is less than water.

BEFORE Running Aground

AFTER Running Aground


Now we will do a demo of an Archimedes Scale. You will need to estimate the number of quarters that are in a plastic box based upon the water displaced by the empty box, and the box with the quarters in it. I have previously measured the average weight of a single quarter to be 5.6627 g

For this demo, I will need 2 volunteers. We need to take measurements of the dimensions of the plastic box, record the displacement of the empty plastic box, record the displacement of the box with the quarters in it, calculate the weight of water displaced in each case, determine the weight of the empty box and the box filled with quarters, calculate the weight of the quarters, calculate the number of quarters, and finally have the 2 volunteers count the quarters for us. Please note that the cross section of this box is only 92% of that of a rectangle of the same length and width. Lets have some fun!