Buoyancy and Archimedes
The buoyant force on an object is equal to the weight
of the fluid displaced by that object
Archimedes principle states A body wholly or partially
immersed in a fluid is buoyed up by a force equal in magnitude
to the weight of the fluid displaced by the body.
The volume of an object is equal to its mass divided by density.
Volume = Mass / Density
v = m/d
Following are four applications of buoyancy and Archimedes
principle. They are:
1. Two identical
buckets filled to the brim with water
2. Rock in a boat floating in a pond is tossed
into the water
3. About ten percent of a floating iceberg sits
above the water
4. Melt an ice cube in a cup of water and the
water level remains unchanged
Given two identical buckets filled to the brim with water. One
bucket has a floating object in it, such as a block of ice or a
piece of wood. Both buckets with content weigh the same. The
floating object displaces a volume of water equal to its weight.
2. If a rock in a boat floating
in a pond is tossed into the water, and the rock sinks, the
water level of the pond will drop.
This is because the rock displaces its mass while in the boat,
and displaces its volume in the water. This assumes the rock
sinks and is therefore more dense than water.
This can be proven mathematically as follows below.
The increase in volume of the pond, when the boat, with a rock
in it, is placed in the pond, is equal to the mass of the boat
divided by the density of water, plus the mass of the rock
divided by the density of water.
The buoyant force on the boat with the rock in it is equal to
the weight of the rock and the boat. When the boat, with the
rock in it, is floating in the pond, the volume of water
displaced is the combined mass of the boat and rock divided by
density of water.
The floating boat and with rock
displace a volume of water that can be expressed as:
mass of rock
density of water
Remember that volume of any material is equal to mass over
When the rock is in the water, it displaces its volume, not
its mass. The volume of water displaced by the submerged
rock and floating boat is the mass of the boat divided by the
density of water, plus the volume of the rock. The volume of the
rock can be expressed as its mass divided by density. The rock
is more dense than the water, evidenced by the fact that it
The volume of water now displaced by the floating boat and rock
submerged in water is mass of the boat divided by density of
water, plus mass of the rock divided by density of the rock.
The floating boat and submerged rock displace a volume of water
that can be expressed as:
mass of rock
density of rock
Subtract the second expression from the first and the result is
mass of rock
V1 - V2 =
density of rock
Look at the right side of this equation. On the right hand side
of the expression, the mass of rock is numerator in both
fractions. Density of rock is larger than density of water,
meaning the second fraction is smaller than the first, and the
result of the subtraction is a number greater than zero and
therefore positive. This means that V1 - V2 is a positive
number, which can only be true of V1 is larger than V2. V1
represents the volume of water displaced by the boat with the
rock in it, and V2 represents the volume of water displaced by
the floating boat and submerged rock, which has now been
algebraically proven to be a smaller value. Therefore the water
level of the pond goes down when the rock is thrown out of the
boat and into the water.
3. Just over ten percent of an
iceberg sits above water. This is because ice is less dense
The density of water is about 997 kilograms per cubic meter.
Salt water, according to most physics text books, weighs about
1,024 kilograms per cubic meter. When water freezes it squeezes
out most of the salt brine and becomes relatively pure frozen
water, with a density of about 917 kilograms per cubic meter.
Ice floats because it is less dense than water.
The weight of a floating iceberg, or any other floating object,
is equal to its density times volume times gravity.
Weight of iceberg = Density of ice * Volume
of iceberg * g
The volume of water displaced by a floating object has the same
weight as the submerged portion of the floating object. This is
equal to the buoyant force on the floating object. The buoyant
force is equal to the density of water, times the volume of
displaced water, times gravity.
force = Density of water * Volume of displaced water * g
Weight of displaced water = Density of water * Volume of
displaced water * g
A floating iceberg is in a state of equilibrium. This means the
buoyant force is equal to the weight of the iceberg.
Buoyant force = Weight of iceberg
Density of ice * volume of iceberg * g =
Density of water * volume of displaced water
cancelling g which exists on both sides
Density of ice * volume of iceberg = Density
of water * volume of displaced water
Divide both sides by density of salt water
and by volume of iceberg gives
Density of ice/density of water = volume
displaced water / volume of iceberg
Density of ice = 917 kg/m^3
Density of salt water = 1024 kg/m^3
Meaning 917/1024 = volume of displaced water / volume of iceberg
= 0.896 = 89.6 percent
The volume of water displaced is the volume of the submerged
portion of the iceberg, which is 89.6 % of the iceberg, with the
remaining 10.4 percent above water.
4. Ice cube floating in a glass of water.
Given an ice cube is floating in a glass of water. After the ice
cube melts, the water line will remain the same and will not
rise or fall.
An ice cube floating in water displaces an amount of water that
weighs the same as the ice cube.
The amount of water, aka the volume of water, that is displaced
by the ice cube, is equal in mass to the mass of the ice.
A floating object displaces its mass.
A sinking object displaces its volume
In On Floating Bodies, Archimedes wrote, in 246 BC:
totally or partially immersed in a fluid or liquid, is
buoyed up by a force equal to the weight of the fluid
displaced by the object.
A floating object, such as an ice cube in water and at rest is
acted on by an upward, or buoyant force. The magnitude of that
upward buoyant force is equal to the weight of the fluid
displaced by the body.
The buoyant force on a floating object such as an ice cube is
also equivalent in magnitude to the weight of the floating
object and is opposite in direction. The ice cube does not rise
or sink; it floats. For example, a boat launched into water
sinks into the water until the weight of the water that the boat
displaces is equal to its own weight.
A free body diagram of the opposing forces on a floating ice
cube would show mg (mass times gravity) in the negative-Y
direction, opposed by fb (force of buoyancy) in the positive-Y
If you could remove a floating ice cube from a cup of water and
leave a hole in the water where the cube used to float, that
hold would take an amount of water equal in weight to that of
the ice cube. Melt that ice cube, pour it into the hole, the
melted water will exactly fill the hole, and leave the
remaining water undisturbed.
An empirical test produces the expected result: