Tag Archives: hydrostatics

Thank you, Archimedes!

I really like hydrostatics. Of course I like moving water even better, but even static water is great. And there are so many things to explore! If I was to teach hydrostatics any time soon, there are so many little teasers I would use.

For example this one:

A sailor is standing on the bottom step of a rope ladder, painting the outside of his ship. The bottom step is 50 cm above the water, the distance between steps is 30 cm. The flood is coming in, and the water is expected to rise by 1.5 m. How many steps will the sailor have to climb in order to keep his feet dry?

Or this one:

How much heavier will a trough in a ship lift get when a ship is inside?

A: the weight of the ship
B: the weight of all parts of the ship above the water line
C: not at all
D: I don’t know*

You might think that these are really easy questions, but then you might be surprised! Funnily enough I drafted this post weeks ago, and then last week a colleague of mine talked about how this was a really difficult question, so I had to post it now ;-)

Another question that he mentioned that students found really difficult is similar to this one:

If an anchor is dropped from a boat into a pond, what will happen to the water level?

A: It will rise
B: It will sink
C: Nothing
D: I don’t know

Answer to that one in this post

*Remember why we always include the “I don’t know” option? If not, check out some more posts on multiple choice questions under the MCQ-tag!

When diet coke cans don’t float better than regular coke cans

This is why you should always test an experiment before you run it…

On recent travels, when I saw that they were serving drinks out of tiny cans, I asked for coke and coke light, because I really like the experiment where you put two coke cans in water and the diet one floats while the regular one sinks.

Soft drinks in cans. Who knew you could do science with them?

And then I had those two new tiny cans sitting in my kitchen. My parents came over and we talked about how I am so happy I got those tiny cans, because it is less equipment to lug around when I travel to workshops or courses. And then my mom says that she has never seen the experiment for real. So of course, I have to show her. And what happens? This!

Screen shot 2015-04-06 at 4.28.11 PM


Yes, the regular coke might have sunk a little deeper, but this is really not as impressive as the experiment is supposed to be!

Good thing I moved the cans (which a friend’s friend brought to Norway for me, which I then brought from Norway to Iceland and then back to Norway) with me to Germany… As you see: The large cans still show what I wanted them to show!

Screen shot 2015-04-06 at 4.27.49 PM


So who knows what is going on here? Too much head space in the tiny cans relative to the amount of soft drink they contain? New formula? Anything else?

And the moral of the story: ALWAYS try your experiments when you are using new equipment before you show them to anyone. Who would have thought that this experiment was not fail safe???