Explaining how a boat like La Salle's La Belle sinks is not all that
difficult: The space within the boat fills up with water, either through the
hull or over the boat's sides, causing the boat to lose its buoyancy. But
that's really not much of an explanation.
In this installment of Hot Science we present three questions that may help you
to better understand buoyancy. The first is a kind of warm-up question, dealing
with general buoyancy principles. The other two are puzzlers, meant to exercise
your mind. Don't fret if you find these too challenging, though. A couple of
highly regarded physicists—J. Robert Oppenheimer and George Gamow—answered one of them incorrectly.
If you'd like to find out a little more buoyancy before jumping in, check out