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Can you explain how a ship made of steel can float?

Posted: 10/9/2013 10:25:06 PM

he simple answer is that ships, even those weighing hundreds of thousands of tons, weigh less than water. More-precisely, they weigh less than the amount of water they displace. To understand this better, let's do a mental experiment...

Imagine a ship floating in water. Now imagine that the water turns into Jello and we remove the ship. That will leave us with a hole in the Jello of the exact size and shape of that part of the ship that was below the water. Finally, we fill the hole in the Jello with water. The weight of that water will be exactly equal to the weight of the entire ship. That's why the ship will float. This is because any floating body will displace an amount of liquid equal to its weight. As long as the weight of the displaced water is greater than the weight of the object, the object will float. If the weight of the water is less than the object, the object will sink.

Here is another way to look at it, for a ship to float its mass has to be equal to the mass of the water it displaces OR equal to the density of the water multiplied by the volume of water it displaces. First imagine if the ship was shrunk down to a cube, but still had the same mass. when placed in water it will sink. why? because its volume isn't enough, when multiplied by the density of water, to equal the cubes mass. Now, if you had the same ship, same mass, but a giant shape to create volume, aka the hull, the ship will be able to float. This is, in short, how the size of the hull is chosen.

This is the Law of Buoyancy. Anything that has a weight equal to the amount of water it displaces will float in water. If the ship has been made in such a way that it can displace the amount of water equal to its weight or even more of its weight, then the ship will float in water. The reason is because a major interior part of the ship is made up of air which is less dense than water.

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