Floating Bowling Balls

Can a bowling ball float? The quick answer is “all heavy things sink.” But not so fast…why does an aircraft carrier float but a penny sinks?

Some bowling balls will float and others will sink. All regulation bowling balls are the same size. So size has nothing to do with floating or sinking. Remember, aircraft carriers float on the ocean.

The answer lies in density. The only thing that varies is the stuff that is inside each bowling ball. An 8-pound ball obviously has less material inside it than a 16-pound ball. A 12-pound ball has about the same density of water, which is 1 gram per cubic centimeter. The density is the same, and the ball will float. All bowling balls under 12 pounds will float, because their density is less than that of water.

Archimedes’ Principal says when you put something in water, it displaces its weight in water. The 8-pound ball displaces 8 pounds of water, but the ball also takes up more volume than 8 pounds of water, so it floats.

For more information on this activity, read the experiment on SteveSpanglerScience.com.

1 reply
  1. Biotechnology Institute
    Biotechnology Institute says:

    Excellent experiments! We’re redesigning our website for the Biotechnology Institute and looking for cool science videos and resources to link to like this! Our goal is to engage students in science and provide great resources for teachers.


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