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Paperclip Raft

Surface tension!
  (+8, -7)
(+8, -7)
  [vote for,

Enough paperclips will work.

If you stick a paperclip ontop of water without breaking the surface, it will float. It does this because of surface tension. It is a neat trick, and it got me thinking.

If we linked a bunch of paperclips, we could make a floating raft type object. Of course, anything put ontop of it would put too much pressure on the clips, and break the surface of the water, but until you did that, it would float.

But the idea of it seems pretty interesting, as it would conform to the waves and stuff. If we could spread out the pressure of the weight of an object, then we could place stuff on it.

DesertFox, Mar 12 2005

Concrete Canoes http://www.asce.org.../nccc2004/index.cfm
not really related [JesusHChrist, Mar 12 2005]

If this was practical, water striders would be bigger than your fingernail http://www.homescho...sample_skaters.html
[DrCurry, Mar 12 2005]

Robostrider http://web.mit.edu/...bo/robostrider.html
[FarmerJohn, Mar 13 2005]


       It would be like a lot of pond skaters standing next to each other and touching. It is practical, DrCurry.
DesertFox, Mar 12 2005

       The advantages specified in the last paragraph (if they are indeed advantages) could be better done by using material that actually floats due to buoyancy. Agree with Curry.
waugsqueke, Mar 12 2005

       I didn't mean link them in the normal way, I meant link them with something like maybe magnetize them, ot with small pieces of wire that doesn't break the surface.
DesertFox, Mar 12 2005

       First, a paperclip is not the ideal shape or material for your skaters. Waterstrider feet and legs are probably best, so make something shaped like that, and good luck with the material. Or pull the legs off thousands of waterstriders.
Second, a waterstrider is most likely at or very near the upper weight limit for the area covered by its legs. So your raft's weight capacity per square foot wouldn't be any more than the weight of a square foot of waterstriders--a few ounces.
Third, to "conform to the waves and stuff" you'd need a dashed good suspension for each foot, cluster of feet, et cetera, to ride the waves. If one foot breaks the surface, the others need to take up the load, then hoist that foot out, dry it off, and put it back down. That all has to happen at no more weight than a waterstrider's body for the same area.
A "raft" of this sort would be deuced hard to make, be totally useless, and would sink at the merest trace of soap in the water. But you *could* fake it in a couple of ways.
One way to fake it is to capture a whole bunch of water striders, arrange them in formation and glue dental floss to their backs, then call that a raft.
The cruelty-free way to fake it is to go down to the fabric store, buy some lightweight polyester fleece and a can of water-repellent spray, spray the fabric and place it on the water.
And that's as heavy as a "raft" could be and still stay atop the water.

       This idea brings to mind the waterstriders in that "Tuxedo" movie with Jackie Chan and what's-her-name. Dang, that was a stupid movie, even before the waterstrider part. The raft sleeps with the fishbones.
baconbrain, Mar 13 2005

       Is it the total water-contacting area of the paperclip which is relevant, or the length of "edge"? I seem the remember it's the edge-length (but could be wrong). If it *is* edge length, then some kind of fractal paperclip (paperclip shaped, but when you look closely it's all convoluted at its edges) would help. l think it's a grand plan - perhaps as an art/science installation somewhere?
Basepair, Mar 13 2005

       Link enough paper clips together to float around a small island and you've got yourself a Cristo.
Machiavelli, Mar 13 2005

       More of a Phillip Morris, I think, but same difference.
DrCurry, Mar 13 2005

       I love this for it's potential as part of public/installation/ephemeral/ sculptural art.
ignorantimmigrant, Mar 14 2005

       People seem to like this as art, so I have moved it.
DesertFox, Mar 14 2005


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