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Challenge Problem, Essay Example

Pages: 1

Words: 295

Essay

In his novel “Slapstick”, Kurt Vonnegut wrote about a situation when the force of gravity on the Earth suddenly increased tremendously. It led to disastrous consequences: “Elevator cables snapping, airplanes were crashing, ships were sinking, motor vehicles were breaking, their axles, bridges were collapsing, and on and on.” But would the ships really sink if the force of gravity were increased?

Why do ships float? The reason for not sinking is the buoyant force that is applied in a direction opposite to gravitational force. Archimedes principle reads that object that floats displaces its weight of fluid. So, if buoyant force of the ship is equal to the weight of the displaced fluid, she will float and will not sink.

The equation of equilibrium:

Fb=W, where Fb is buoyant force, and W is weight of the submerged object or weight of the apparently immersed part of the object.

Fb=mdisplaced fluid*g=ρfluid*Vdisplaced fluid*g

W=mobj*g

mobj= ρfluid*Vdisplaced fluid

In the novel, the force of gravity increased; this force depends on mass and gravitational acceleration. In the last equation, there is no gravitational acceleration g. It means that whatever g is, equation of equilibrium will remain the same.

It is clear from the equations above that despite disastrous consequences for objects that do not float ships would survive the cataclysm, because the condition for floating does not depend on gravitational acceleration.

The cataclysm in the book could have been of another character. For example, the force of gravity could have been claimed to decrease dramatically, and objects from the bottom of the sea could float. Again, this problem would have been solved through application of Archimedes principle of buoyancy. Though some objects in the air may have become lighter and fly away, or people could have jumped several meters high, objects under the water would stay under the water.

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