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A Guide to Understanding Uses of the Density Formula

There are very few people who have never heard the word “density” before. If, for example, you’ve ever taken a science class, the odds are good that density came up at some point in time, particularly if the course was chemistry-centric or physics-centric. There is a good chance, though, that you never fully understood what density is or what the formula of density is. Fortunately, this guide is here to help.

The density formula, to start with, is an object’s mass divided by it’s volume. By now you might be thinking that there’s no way you’ll ever need to use density in your day-to-day life, but this isn’t necessarily true. There are, as you’ll learn in the next section of this guide, a large number of practical applications for the formula of density. While you might not use every one of these applications yourself, you are sure to run into some of them regularly or at least from time to time.

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One of the most famous uses of the density formula involves buoyancy. As the tale goes, Archimedes of Syracuse was commissioned to determine if King Hiero II’s brand new crown contained the proper amount of gold; the king was under the impression that his goldsmith might have stolen some of the metal for his own gain. Ultimately, Archimedes realized that the volume of the crown could be determined by the mass of the water it displaced in a tub. The volume could then be inserted into the density formula and the problem solved.
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Learn About Lakes’ Seasonal Stratification

Water’s density maximum tops out at 4 degrees Celsius. In all but the very shallowest lakes, the water has stratified properties; this refers to the fact that the most dense water goes to the floor and rarely, if ever, mixes with the less-dense water that can be found at the surface. When the chill of fall and winter come each year, cooling the temperature of lake waters, the dense water that had been at the bottom over the spring and summer is pushed towards the top, restoring nutrients and making sure the lake is prepped for the upcoming year.

Density is a Key Component of Lava Lamps

Lava lamps, or fluid motion lamps, became immensely popular in the 1970s and are still popular in some circles today. The formula of density is a major player in how these sorts of lamps operate. The oil is put into these lamps is a bit denser than water is; thus, when the oil gets hot, blobs of water float throughout the lamp’s glass enclosure.