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As you can imagine, there is definitely more to whether

an object floats or not than just average density. For
example, why do some objects float higher in the water
than others? And why is it easier to lift objects
underwater than in the air? To answer these questions,
youll need to understand the concept of buoyancy, a
force which is exerted by a fluid on an object, opposing
the objects weight.
It is rumored that the Greek philosopher and scientist
Archimedes, around 250 B.C., was asked by King Hiero II
to help with a problem. King Hiero II had ordered a fancy
golden crown from a goldsmith. However, the king was
concerned that the goldsmith may have taken his
money and mixed some silver in with the crown instead
of crafting the crown out of pure gold. He asked
Archimedes if there was a way to determine if the crown
was pure gold.
Archimedes puzzled over the problem for some time,
coming up with the solution while he was in the bath tub
one evening. When Archimedes submerged himself in
the tub, he noticed that the amount of water that spilled
over the rim of the tub was equal to the volume of water
he displaced.
Using this method, he could place the crown in a bowl
full of water. The amount of water that spilled over could
be measured and used to tell the volume of the crown.
By then dividing the mass of the crown by the volume,
he could obtain the density of the crown, and compare
the density to that of gold, determining if the crown was
pure gold. According to legend, he was so excited he
popped out of the tub and ran through the streets naked
yelling Eureka! Eureka! (Greek for I found it! I found

Answer: First, draw a free body diagram (FBD)

of the situation, realizing that you have the
force of gravity (mg) pulling down, the buoyant
force upward, and the force of tension in the
cable upward.
Because the shark tank is at equilibrium under
the water, the net force on it must be zero,
therefore the upward forces must balance the
downward forces. You can write this using
Newtons 2nd Law in the y-direction as:

Finally, you can use this equation to solve for the force
of tension in the cable.

Question: A rectangular boat made out of concrete

with a mass of 3000 kg floats on a freshwater lake
(=1000 kg/m3). If the bottom area of the boat is 6 m 2,
how much of the boat is submerged?
Answer: Because the boat is floating on the lake, the
magnitude of the buoyant force must be equal to the
magnitude of the weight of the boat. (FB=mg).
Since the boat is rectangular, you can write its volume
(V) as its bottom area (A=6 m 2) multiplied by the depth
submerged (d).

True story or not, this amusing tale illustrates

Archimedes development of a key principle of
buoyancy: the buoyant force (FB) on an object is equal to
the density of the fluid, multiplied by the volume of the
fluid displaced (which is also equal to the volume of the
submerged portion of the object), multiplied by the
as Archimedes Principle.
Archimedes Principle explains why boats made of steel
can float. Although the steel of the boat itself is more
dense than water, the average density of the entire boat
(including the air in the interior of the boat) is less than
that of water. Put another way, the boat floats because
the weight of the volume of water displaced by the boat
is greater than the weight of the boat itself.

When a force is applied to a contained, incompressible
fluid, the pressure increases equally in all directions
throughout the fluid. This fundamental characteristic of
fluids provides the foundation for hydraulic systems
found in barbershop chairs, construction equipment,
and the brakes in your car.

This principle also accounts for the ability of submarines

to control their depth. Submarines use pumps to move
water into and out of chambers in their interior,
effectively controlling the average density of the
submarine. If the submarine wants to rise, it pumps
water out, reducing its average density. If it wants to
submerge, it pumps water in, increasing its average
Question: What is the buoyant force on a 0.3 m3 box
which is fully submerged in freshwater (density=1000

Question: A steel cable holds a 120-kg shark tank 3

meters below the surface of saltwater. If the volume of
water displaced by the shark tank is 0.1 m3, what is the
tension in the cable? Assume the density of saltwater is
1025 kg/m3.

Because the force applied to the contained fluid is

distributed throughout the system, you can multiply the
applied force through this application of Pascals
Principle in the following manner. Assume you have a
closed container filled with an incompressible fluid with
two pistons of differing areas, A1 and A2. If you apply a
force, F1, to the piston of area A 1, you create a pressure
in the fluid which you can call P1.

Similarly, the pressure at the second piston, P 2, must be

equal to F2 divided by the area of the second piston, A2.

Since the pressure is transmitted equally throughout the

fluid in all directions according to Pascals Principle,
P1 must equal P2.

Rearranging to solve for F2, you find that F2 is increased

by the ratio of the areas A2 over A1.

Therefore, you have effectively increased the applied

force F1. Of course, the law of conservation of energy
cannot be violated, so the work done on the system
must balance the work done by the system. In the
hydraulic lift diagram shown on the previous page, the
distance over which F1 is applied will be greater than the
distance over which F2 is applied, by the exact same
ratio as the force multiplier!
Question: A barber raises his customers chair by
applying a force of 150N to a hydraulic piston of area
0.01 m2. If the chair is attached to a piston of area 0.1
m2, how massive a customer can the chair raise?
Assume the chair itself has a mass of 5 kg.
Answer: To solve this problem, first determine the force
applied to the larger piston.

Conservation of energy, when applied to fluids in

motion, leads to Bernoullis Principle. Bernoullis
Principle states that fluids moving at higher velocities
lead to lower pressures, and fluids moving at lower
velocities result in higher pressures.
Airplane wings have a larger top surface than a bottom
surface to take advantage of this fact. As the air moves
across the larger top surface, it must move faster than
the air traveling a shorter distance under the bottom
surface. This leads to a lower pressure on top of the
wing, and a higher pressure underneath the wing,
providing some of the lift for the aircraft (note that this
isnt the only cause of lift, as Newtons 3rd Law also
plays a critical role in understanding the dynamics of

This principle is also used in sailboats, carburetors, gas

delivery systems, and even water-powered sump
Expressing Bernoullis Principle quantitatively, you can
relate the pressure, velocity, and height of a liquid in a
tube at various points.
The pressure at a point in the tube plus half the density
of the fluid multiplied by the square of its velocity at
that point, added to the gauge pressure of the fluid
(gy), must be equal at any point in the tube.
Question: Water sits in a large open jug at a height of
0.2m above the spigot. With what
velocity will the water leave the
spigot when the spigot is opened?

If the maximum force on the chair is 1500N, you can

now determine the maximum mass which can be lifted
by recognizing that the force that must be overcome to
lift the customer is the force of gravity, therefore the
applied force on the customer must equal the force of
gravity on the customer.

Answer: Since the top of the jug

and the spigot are both open to
atmosphere, the pressures P1and
P2 must be equal. Since the jug is
much larger than the spigot, you
can assume the velocity of the
water at the top of the jug is
nearly zero. This allows you to simplify Bernoullis
Equation considerably.

If the chair has a mass of 5 kilograms, the maximum

mass of a customer in the chair must be 148 kg.
Question: A hydraulic system is used to lift a 2000-kg
vehicle in an auto garage. If the vehicle sits on a piston
of area 0.5 square meter, and a force is applied to a
piston of area 0.03 square meters, what is the minimum
force that must be applied to lift the vehicle?



Since the density of the fluid is the same throughout,

you can do some algebraic simplification to solve for v2.

This is known as Torricellis Theorem. Since the

difference in height is 0.2m, you can now easily solve
for the velocity of the water at the spigot.

Notice that this is the same result you would obtain if

you had solved for the velocity of an object dropped
from a height of 0.2 meters using the kinematic
equations... this should make sense, as Bernoullis
Equation is really just a restatement of conservation of
energy, applied to fluids!