General Chemistry
Behavioral Sciences
Lab Techniques

What Is Buoyancy

Imagine you’re at a lake, and you see various objects on the water—some are floating, others are partially submerged, and a few have sunk to the bottom. This everyday scene is a practical demonstration of buoyant forces at work. Buoyancy is the invisible hand of physics that ensures a ship made of steel can float while a small pebble sinks. It’s a force as pervasive as gravity, yet it often goes unnoticed unless we’re dealing with a body of fluid.

The buoyant force is like a vote of confidence that a fluid gives to an object, determining if it stays atop the surface or not. It arises from the pressure differences in the fluid and is directed upwards, opposing the weight of the object in the fluid.

In the next couple of lessons, we’ll dissect the factors that influence this upward force. We’ll talk about density—not just the object’s density but the fluid’s as well—and how this relationship decides the object’s fate: floating, submerged but suspended, or completely sunk. We’ll also explore how the concept of apparent weight becomes relevant underwater, which is essential for understanding the physics behind scuba diving and the buoyancy of fish.

By the end of this exploration, you’ll not only have a grasp of why certain objects refuse to sink but also be equipped with the mathematical tools to quantify buoyant forces. With this knowledge, you’ll be well-prepared to tackle buoyancy questions on the MCAT.