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SIDE DISPLAY

Sink or Swim?

Visitors observe a can of diet soft drink and a can of regular soft drink in a large container of water. The diet soft drink floats and the regular soft drink sinks.

OBJECTIVES: Visitors learn that different liquids with the same volume may have different densities. They learn that the ability of an object to float depends on its density.

SCIENCE TOPICS
Density

PROCESS SKILLS
Observing Inferring

VOCABULARY
Density

Unit 1 The Nature of Matter Experiencing Chemistry 1997 OMSI

U1.87

Sink or Swim?
To do and notice:
Which soft drink can floats? Which can sinks? Why? (Hint: What does a regular soft drink contain that a diet soft drink doesnt?)

What is going on?


The cans of regular soft drink and diet soft drink contain the same amount of liquid and the same amount of air. However, regular soft drinks are about 15% sugar by weight, whereas diet soft drinks have no sugar. Because the sugar makes soft drinks denser than diet soft drinks, these soft drinks sink. Diet soft drinks are less dense, so they float in water.

Try this at home!


Test other soft drinks. Which ones float? Which sink? Do some float higher than others?

1997 OMSI

Side Display: Sink or Swim? (with amounts to have on hand)


One can of regular soft drink One can of diet soft drink One 5-gal plastic aquarium Water

Operating Guide

Setup/Takedown Procedures

Set out the public copy. Fill the plastic aquarium full of water. Put the two soft drink cans into the aquarium. The diet soft drink will
float and the regular soft drink will sink.

Make sure the aquarium is large enough that the diet soft drink is
obviously floating rather than just being propped up by the other can.

Empty the water and store the soft drink cans and aquarium. Check the cans for signs of rust and replace them as necessary.
Cans should last for many weeks, requiring very little maintenance.

If the can of diet soft drink is not floating as expected, try a different can.

Unit 1 The Nature of Matter Experiencing Chemistry 1997 OMSI

U1.89

Side Display: Sink or Swim?

Operating Guide

Other brands of soft drink will also work. Different brands of soft drinks will float at different levels; some are not as dramatic as others. If you had a REALLY big tank, you could show 7 or 8 different cans at once floating at different levels.

No special precautions are needed; follow standard lab safety procedures.

U1.90

Unit 1 The Nature of Matter Experiencing Chemistry 1997 OMSI