Do Bowling Balls Float? Gravity Vs. Buoyancy

Tyson Donaldson
Have you ever wondered if a bowling ball can float? It’s a fascinating question knowing that the nature of the bowling balls is solid and heavy, which will end up sinking in the water. But before we jump to that conclusion, the answer can be yes or no. This is because the buoyancy of the ball depends on some factors, such as its mass and the density of the water it occupies.

As we all know, bowling balls have different weights; the weight of a bowling ball that can float in water is a lighter ball weight. If your bowling ball is above 12 pounds, it will automatically sink because its density is heavier than water. If you are curious to know more about the behavior of the bowling ball on the water, this article will shed some light on whether the ball can float. Let's dive in and understand the bowling ball buoyancy!

Table Of Contents

Does a bowling ball float?

To answer this, a bowling ball depends on its mass and density to determine whether it can float or sink. The challenging part of determining which ball can float is that they all look similar in size. Don't worry about that since we will help you crack the nutshell and know which weight will float and which one will not. Each bowling ball's weight has a different density, and the bowling ball with a closer density to water is a 12-pound bowling ball. We all know water density is 1 gram/centimeter while a 12 pounds bowling ball has a 0.99 gram/centimeter density.

Density is one of the crucial factors that can either cause the ball to float or sink. Balls that weigh 12 pounds or less will float on water, but balls that weigh more than 12 pounds have heavy weight and higher density than water which can cause them to sink straight to the depths of the water. The physics involved in this buoyancy effect in bowling balls is that for the ball to float, its density should not be as high as that of water.

Factors Affecting Bowling Ball to Float.

Regarding whether a bowling ball can float on water, we have some key things you will have to consider. Let's check on the following factors that affect a bowling ball's behavior in water:

1. The Density of the Bowling Ball.

First and foremost, the density of the ball plays an essential role In determining if the ball will float on water. To define density, we can refer to how much mass is packed into a given volume of an object. Most people believe if a substance looks big, it will sink, but that is not the case. For a substance to float density of the material used determines a lot.

Let's dive in and see how density comes in; for instance, all bowling balls have the same size but have different densities. If the bowling ball's density is less than the liquid it's placed in, then it means the ball will float. If the ball has the same density as the liquid (water), the ball will stay in place. The ball will sink to the bottom for heavier balls with higher density

2. The Density of the Water.

Another factor to take into account is the density of the water. As we have discussed, pure water's density is 1g/cm3; when you place a bowling ball in the water, the density of the water will determine whether the ball will float or sink. Water can be categorized into two types: saltwater and freshwater. Will the density of different types of water affect the bowling ball? Well, it will affect since salty water has a density that is raised compared to fresh water, which is lesser.

3. Weight of the bowling ball.

Another essential factor that can affect the ball to float or sink in water is the bowling ball's weight. The buoyancy of the bowling ball is determined by its weight. Heavier balls are likely to sink compared to light balls that tend to float. If you use a 12 pounds ball or lesser weight than that, you will see the ball floating; if its weight exceeds 12 pounds, it will sink.

Will Bowling Ball Float or Sink in Fresh Water?

Have you ever imagined what would happen when you place your bowling ball in freshwater? We can demonstrate that using different bowling balls weights(8,10, and 13 pounds) put inside a container of full fresh water.

As we all know, the density of freshwater is 1g/cm3; we can see how the first ball of 10 pounds will behave when inserted in freshwater; The ball will be suspended in its position this is because the density of the 10-pound ball will match the density of the water. If let's say, you gently place the ball in the water, it will remain in place, and if you try to push it deeper, it will still resist and stay where it was.

The 8-pound bowling ball will float in the freshwater. The ball's weight is lighter and less dense than water. The ball will still float even if you push it down; it will just pop back and float.

However, heavier balls, like 13-pound balls, when put into the freshwater container, the ball will sink to the bottom of the container. The 13-pound ball has a higher density than the freshwater, which is why the ball sinks. Let's say you try to place the ball gently. It will still go back to the bottom of the container. The demonstrations of different sizes of bowling balls have shown how the weight of different densities in freshwater can sink or float.

Will Bowling Ball Float or Sink in Salt Water?

Will bowling balls still behave the same way as in freshwater? Well, the answer to that is no. The floating and sinking of the ball in salt water will still depend on its density it has. Though there is some difference in density in salt water, salt tends to increase the density of any liquid when added. Therefore salt water, such as ocean water, will have a higher density than fresh water.

Let's try a short experiment with different sizes of bowling balls (8,10,12). Let's see how they will behave when placed in salty or ocean water.

When you place an 8-pound ball in salty water, the ball will end up floating because the ball density is lower than in salted water.

Try another ball size, like a 10-pound ball. What do you notice? You will see the ball floating just like the first ball, but it won't maintain its position like what we observed in the freshwater. This observation is due to the increase of density in the salty water.

Depending on the concentration of the salty water, a 12-pound ballpoint can either float or maintain its position. It will float if the water is too salty, but it will maintain its position or even sink if it's less salty.

Will Bowling Ball Float or Sink in the Dead Sea?

Have you ever heard of the Dead Sea? It is one of the saltiest bodies of water on earth. The sea contains an incredibly high salt concentration compared to other bodies worldwide. Its salt concentration is much higher than salt water or ocean water, and it has a density of 1.241g/cm3

What will happen if we throw different balls into the dead sea? You will be surprised that all the bowling balls of 8, 10, 12, and 13 pounds will float on the water's surface. The balls float because their densities are lower than the Dead Sea water, which has a high density due to the increased salt concentration. If you are looking for a bowling ball that will sink into the deep sea, you can try out bowling balls that weigh 14 pounds and more so that they can overcome the buoyant force of the salty water.

How to calculate the density of the Bowling Ball?

To calculate the density of a bowling ball, you need to know its mass and volume. Here's how you can calculate it: 1. First, measure the mass of the bowling ball using a scale. The mass is typically measured in grams or kilograms. If your bowling balls weigh in the pound, here is a simple conversion you can use from pounds to grams.: 1 Pound = 453.6 grams. Here is a table that has the mass in both pounds and grams for bowling ball size weights from 8 pounds to 12 pounds:

Bowling Ball (Weight in Pounds) Weight in Grams
8 Pounds 3,632 grams
9 Pounds 4,086 grams
10 Pounds 4540 grams
11 Pounds 4994 grams
12 Pounds 5448 grams
13 Pounds 5902 grams
14 Pounds 6356 grams
15 Pounds 6810 grams
16 Pounds 7264 grams

2. Measure the volume of the bowling ball. Since bowling balls have irregular shapes, measuring their volume directly can be challenging. However, you can approximate the volume by using the water displacement method.

To achieve the water displacement method, you will have to fill a container with water and record the initial volume. From there, you can gently submerge the bowling ball in the water, ensuring it is fully submerged without touching the bottom or sides of the container.

Measure the new volume of the water and subtract the initial volume to find the volume of the bowling ball.

Alternatively, you can get the volume of your bowling as long as you have the radius of the ball. Use the following equation to calculate the volume of the bowling ball.

Volume = 4/3 × π × radius3

3. Once you have the mass and volume, you can calculate the density using the formula: Density = Mass / Volume.

For example, an 8 pounds bowling ball has a volume of 5452 cm3, and its mass in grams is 3632 grams. Let's find density using the above formula:

Density = Mass/Volume

Density = 3,632 grams / 5,452 cm3 = 0.67 g/cm3

The density of an 8-pound bowling ball is less than that of water, which is 1.0 g/cm3; it means the ball is less dense than water, and hence it will float on the water's surface.

Here is a summary table that shows the calculated density of each bowling ball weight starting from 8 pounds to 16 pounds:

Bowling Ball (Weight in Pounds) Weight in Grams Density Weight /5452 cm3
8 Pounds 3,632 grams 0.67 g/cm3
9 Pounds 4,086 grams 0.75 g/cm3
10 Pounds 4540 grams 0.83 g/cm3
11 Pounds 4994 grams 0.92 g/cm3
12 Pounds 5448 grams 0.99 g/cm3
13 Pounds 5902 grams 1.08 g/cm3
14 Pounds 6356 grams 1.17 g/cm3
15 Pounds 6810 grams 1.25 g/cm3
16 Pounds 7264 grams 1.33 g/cm3

4. Make sure to use consistent units for mass and volume in the calculation. For example, if the mass is measured in grams and the volume is in cubic centimeters, the density will be in grams per cubic centimeter (g/cm³).

How do you make a bowling ball float?

To make a bowling ball float, we can apply a little physics that we know and use buoyancy knowledge. What is buoyancy? To explain this term sufficiently, buoyancy is the force that acts on the object to keep it floating and depends on the difference between the density of the object and the fluid in it.

Bowling ball is well made with polyurethane, which is dense but not as dense as other materials like steel or lead. So polyurethane is the perfect material used to make bowling balls as it strikes a balance between density and durability.

How do we make a bowling ball float? We have to find a body of water that is deep enough that you can fully submerge the ball into the water. A hot tub or swimming pool can be the best example. We can experiment with the Bowling balls. Grab your ball and lower it into the water until it is entirely underwater; you can release your grip from there. By doing this, the buoyancy force will make the ball rise naturally to the water's surface and start to float.


To sum it up, bowling balls can float or sink depending on their main factor, Density. Bowling balls can float in water because they are generally less dense than water. When an object is less dense than the liquid it's in, it can float. Bowling balls are relatively lightweight or heavyweight; when the ball is too heavy, above 12 pounds will sink in water, while balls below 12 pounds will have lower density and eventually float in water. Also, we have seen how different bowling ball behaves when placed in seawater and the dead sea, which has different densities with different behaviors on the bowling balls.

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