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Does a Can of Soda Float?

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Randy just told me that diet soft drinks float and regular sugar sodas sink. He demonstrated it with a few different types on campus after we came across a tub filled with them - and surprise - he was right. Read why here, here's a clip:
Diet sodas usually contain aspartame, an artificial sweetener, while regular sodas use sugar. Take a look at the nutritional information on the side of the cans. Notice how much sugar is in a regular soda (look under carbohydrates). Most regular sodas have about 41 grams of sugar. How much is 41 grams? Try 18 packets of sugar like the ones you might find at a restaurant! Diet soda is flavored with a relatively small amount of an artificial sweetener (like aspartame) which is 200 times sweeter than an equal amount of sugar. Therefore, only a tiny amount of aspartame is needed. Both sugar and aspartame are denser than water, which can be easily demonstrated by adding small amounts of each to a container of water. So it is actually a matter of how much of each is used. The 41 grams or so of sugar added to a can of regular soda makes it sink. The relatively tiny amount of aspartame used in diet sodas will have a negligible effect on the mass, enabling the can to still float.

So why then do cans of diet soda float? It is all due to the fact that there is a little bit of space, called "headspace," above the fluid in each can of soda. This space is filled with gas, which is much less dense than the soda, itself. It is this space above the soda that lowers the density of diet drinks just enough to make them float. Sugared drinks still have this headspace, but the excessive amounts of sugar added makes the can denser than water.

posted by Joshua Griffin @ 7:54 PM |

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At 12/03/2007, Blogger Courtney said...

I can't believe how interested I was in this article. I love having this little nugget in my knowledge bank. Thanks!

At 12/03/2007, Blogger P-Rob said...


i could actually go home and go back to bed now, because i've learned something new and fun today.

but my senior pastor wouldn't be happy if i did that.

At 12/17/2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

us girls are going to try this experiment out so hope we do good!


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