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# Capillarity and Archimedes Principle of Floatation

## John McCuan and Ray Treinen

January 15, 2009
Abstract
We consider some of the complications that arise in attempting to generalize
a version of Archimedes principle of oatation to account for capillary eects.
The main result provides a means to relate the oating position (depth in
the liquid) of a symmetrically oating sphere in terms of readily observable
geometric quantities.
A similar result is obtained for an idealized case corresponding to a sym-
metrically oating innite cylinder. Certain possibilities are also outlined in
the event symmetry is relaxed in this latter problem.
Central to all of these results is a specialized variational formula for oating
bodies which was derived in a special case earlier [Pac. J. Math. 231 (2007)
pp.167191] and is here generalized to account for gravitational forces.
1 Introduction
We wish to consider the following version of Archimedes principle:
An object, when deposited into a bath of liquid, displaces a volume of liquid
having mass equal to the eective mass of the object.
This principle takes no account of the eects of surface tension or surface energies
associated with wetting. Indeed, simple experiments show that it is possible, under
certain circumstances, for a convex object with density greater than that of a given
liquid bath to oat (only) partially submerged on the surface of the bath. Finn [Fin08]
has recently given the rst rigorous proof of this fact, at least in an idealized situation
which we describe in 4 below.
1
Even in the case of a convex object with constant density smaller than the density

0
of the liquid, how to interpret and generalize Archimedes principle to include
surface tension and surface energies is not entirely obvious. In order to illustrate this,
let us briey consider the notion of displaced liquid referred to in the principle above.
The principle states, after all, that

0
V
d
= V
m
, (1)
where V
m
is the volume of the object and V
d
is the volume of the displaced liquid.
According to the account of Vetruvius the displaced volume V
d
of liquid is determined
by assuming the bath is lled precisely to the rim of the vessel so that when the object
is deposited, the displaced volume is simply that which spills onto the oor, or into
a larger vessel if one wishes to avoid the mess. One presumes that the interface
is assumed planar in this discussion, and hence for a oating object the displaced
volume is also that portion of the volume of the object below the surface of the liquid
while oating.
With surface tension, a bath may often be lled slightly above the rim of the
vessel (or far above the rim of the vessel [Mie02] if the gravity is small); the interface
is also required to meet the oating object at a prescribed contact angle depending on
materials and not necessarily compatible with the condition that a planar interface
meet the object in a manner appropriate for the depth of oatation. These factors
and others may conspire to render the interface decidedly nonplanar in general and
suggest we look elsewhere for the displaced volume of liquid.
One might also use a vessel with higher sides. In fact, we shall restrict attention, in
the physical three-dimensional case, to a cylindrical vessel with circular cross section
of radius R and having initial depth large enough to completely immerse the object,
even if it oats. See Figure 1. Under the foregoing Archimedean assumptions, the
object of density <
0
will still oat in a geometric position (i.e., attitude with
respect to the interface) congruent to that obtained when the liquid spilled over the
rim, but the planar interface and the object will be higher; the entire level of the
interface conguration will rise, being translated upward through a vertical distance
V
d
/(R
2
) as if the displaced volume had been injected at the bottom of the vessel.
It should be noted that the attendant volume V
r
of raised liquid (i.e., the volume of
liquid above the level of the original interface) is necessarily less than the displaced
volume, being determined by the relation
V
r
+ V
c
= V
d
where V
c
is the volume of a certain cavity swept out by the submerged portion of the
bottom of the object as it is vertically translated through a distance V
d
/(R
2
). Thus,
2
Figure 1: The displaced liquid of Archimedean oatation
there is a somewhat delicate relation between the displaced volume, the rise in the
liquid interface, and the manner in which the object oats, even in the Archimedean
case.
When surface tension and wetting energies are taken into account, the interface
itself must also be expected to change in a global way upon introduction of the oating
object. It is clear that making sense of the displaced volume in terms of the liquid
rise in this case would be dicult at best. See Figure 2.
We are not so ambitious to propose here a general denition of the displaced
volume of liquid for an arbitrary oating object. If we assume, however, that the
contact line on the oating object is the intersection of the boundary of the object
with a horizontal plane, then we have recourse to the alternative mentioned above.
Namely, V
d
is simply the volume of the object below the surface of the liquid, that
is to say below the horizontal plane containing the contact line. This is not only
a convenient denition, but at least in the case of a sphere leads to an interesting
Figure 2: The diculty of nding the displaced liquid when surface tension and
wetting energies are acting
3
analogue of Archimedes principle and, surprisingly, one that can be viewed as a direct
generalization of it.
Before stating this relation, let us recast Archimedes principle in the special case
we have described. Under Archimedean assumptions, a sphere of radius a oating in
the center of a cylindrical vessel should have circular contact line determined by an
azimuthal angle

. See Figure 3. The volume of the sphere below the planar interface
Figure 3: Azimuthal angles determined by a horizontal contact line (left) and diering
azimuthal angles in the two-dimensional case (right)
is
V
d
=
1
3
a
3
_
sin
2

cos

+ 2 + 2 cos

_
.
Using (1), we obtain the following
Theorem 1 According to Archimedes principle, a homogeneous sphere of density
>
0
will sink to the bottom of a bath of density
0
, and a homogeneous sphere of
density <
0
will oat at a level determined by
cos
3

3 cos

= 2
_
1
2

0
_
. (2)
It is easily checked that the function F(

) = cos
3

3 cos

is increasing from 2
to 2 on [0, ] with zero derivative at the endpoints and strictly positive derivative
interior to the interval. Thus, for each positive value 0
0
, the condition (2)
determines a unique azimuthal angle. See Figure 4.
We obtain the following result under assumptions described in detail below.
4
Theorem 2 A sphere that oats in a centrally symmetric position as described above
under the eects of surface tension and adhesion eects of an axially symmetric bath
must oat at a level determined by the azimuthal angle

satisfying
cos
3

3 cos

+
6
a
_

H +
cos
a
_
sin
2

3 sin
a
2
sin(2

) = 2
_
1
2

0
_
, (3)
where = g/ is the capillary constant determined by the gravitational acceleration
g and the surface tension ,

H is the mean curvature of the liquid interface at the
contact line, and is the contact angle of the liquid interface with the oating sphere.
The function F(

) appearing on the left in equation (3) also takes the values 2 and
2 at the endpoints

= 0 and respectively. However, F is decreasing at

= 0 and
decreases to a unique local interior minimum, thus allowing for values of >
0
and
determining explicitly a unique maximum density
max
=
max
(a, , ,

H) for which
>
max
implies no oatation is possible. From the unique interior minimum, the
function strictly increases to a unique (interior) maximum value greater than 2 from
which it strictly decreases to the value 2 at the other endpoint

= . It will be noted
from this description that a unique azimuthal angle

is determined for all values of
0 < <
0
, and that two values are possible for certain values of
0
(as long as
is not too large). We presume by continuity that the physically relevant value for
heavy oating spheres is the larger one determined by (3); see the list of conjectures
and open problems at the end for further comments.
0.5 1.0 1.5 2.0 2.5 3.0
2
1
1
2
0.5 1.0 1.5 2.0 2.5 3.0
2
1
1
2
3
4
0.5 1.0 1.5 2.0 2.5 3.0
2
1
1
2
3
4
Figure 4: The azimuthal angles determined by Theorems 1 (left) and 2 (middle);
plotted together on the right
It could be legitimately objected that the quantity

H appearing in our formula
is somewhat unnatural due, rst of all, to the fact that there is nothing of the sort
appearing in Archimedes principle which we wish to generalize. Upon reection,
however, it becomes clear that some globally determined quantities must appear;
the situation when capillarity is taken account of is necessarily more complicated
5
than Archimedean oatation. On the other hand, we agree that the value

H should,
in principle, be determined by other parameters not appearing in (3), namely the
volume of liquid in the cylinder before the oating object is introduced, and the
contact angle
out
between the free surface interface and the wall of the cylinder. In
summary, intuition suggests:
An accurate description of how an object oats under the inuence of
capillarity should require the inclusion of global information on the cong-
uration including but not limited to the volume of liquid and the contact
angle between the liquid interface and relatively distant structures such the
surface of the containing vessel.
We believe this intuition is correct, but a theorem giving the exact relation among
all the relevant quantities requires an understanding of the family of solutions of
the ordinary dierential equation governing the interface which is beyond what we
currently have. The structure of this family of solutions is notoriously complicated,
and there are many basic questions even about particular special solutions which are
still open. For a survey of some of the recent results, see [Fin86, Vog82, Sie06, Sie80,
Nic02, EKT04, Tur80, JP68, Tre08].
On the other hand, it simply requires a change of perspective to designate

H
as a locally measurable independent parameter, and the form of Theorem 2 gives
quantitative content to a competing intuition which says:
The depth at which an object oats in a liquid bath (relative to the level
of the bath) should only depend on the relative densities, the contact angle
of the interface with the surface of the oating object, and quantities
measured locally near the object.
The choice and appearance of the particular quantity

H is further explained in 5 in
reference to Conjecture 4. The result above may also be defended on precisely the
ground that it is, like Archimedes result, essentially algebraic and beautifully simple
in that sense.
2 Variational Formulation
The general assumptions of our model are outlined in [McC07] though the derivation
given there was aimed at the zero gravity case in which buoyancy plays no role, and
the eects of gravity were not properly considered. For the sake of making this paper
6
somewhat more self-contained we include a short review/summary of the model and
amend the deciencies in the former derivation.
Quite generally, we consider a solid structure =
s

m
consisting of a sta-
tionary part
s
and a movable, or oating, part
m
. In addition, we hypothesize an
equilibrium liquid interface with corresponding wetted region W = W
s
W
m
, so
that the liquid volume V satises V = W and the contact line/triple interface
is given by = W. Under these assumptions, we consider the variational problem
associated with
E = || |W| +G (4)
where G =
_
Vm
G and G is a position dependent function representing eld forces
such as gravity.
1
Under rather general hypotheses, as described in [McC07] a family of variations
leaving
m
xed leads to the following (standard) variational formulas

|V| =
_

2H

X N +
_

X n
where H is the mean curvature dened on ,

X is the variation vector, N is the unit
normal pointing out of the liquid volume V, and n is the unit conormal to N and
pointing out of .

|W| =
_

X ,
where is the unit conormal to N
W
and W pointing out of W; note that N
W
denotes the unit normal to W pointing out of V and may also be denoted by N on
the interior of W where no ambiguity arises.

G =
_

G

X N and

|V| =
_

X N.
These last two formulas apparently require an interesting and somewhat delicate
application of more general mathematical principles of uid mechanics, and we outline
their derivation under more general assumptions below.
For now, we assemble

E/

|V| from the constituent parts above where is a
Lagrange multiplier associated with the volume constraint:

E/

|V| =
_

(2H + G/ )

X N +
_

(

X n

X ).
1
We included only
_
V
G in [McC07].
7
The vanishing of this quantity for all variation vectors

X results in the well known
geometric boundary value problem
_
_
_
2H = G/ on
cos = on
(5)
since n = (n N
W
)N
W
+cos . In the special case under consideration in this paper,
G represents the limiting value
0
gz taken as a limit from inside the liquid, so that
2H = z
where =
0
g/ is a capillary constant for the problem.
A more general variation allowing rigid motion of
m
takes the form
X = X(p; t, h) : M (, ) (, ) R
3
where M = V is considered as an abstract manifold; see Figure 5.
Figure 5: The variation map and its notation
It is assumed here, as indicated in the gure that h parameterizes a family of rigid
motions w = w(x; h) to which
m
is subject. Denoting derivatives with respect to h
by an acute accent, we nd

|| =
_

2H

X N +
_

X n, (6)

|W| =
_
Wm
2H
W

X N +
_
Wm

X , (7)
8

G =
_

G

X N +
_
Wm
G

X N
W
+
_
m
G
m

X N
m
. (8)
This last term requires some explanation. The quantity G
m
denotes the value of the
volumetric force eld potential taken as a limit from inside the movable solid structure

m
. In the special case of a oating object of density , we typically take G
m
= gz.
Also in this last identity N
m
denotes the unit normal to the boundary
m
of the
movable/oating solid structure and points out of
m
, so that N
m
= N
W
on their
common domain of denition W
m
. Finally, we include a brief derivation.
Up until this point, we have stated all variational formulae in their nal form,
that is to say with the parameters of the variation set to zero so that

X represents
d
dt
X(p; t)

t=0
where X = X(p; t) : M (, ). For this calculation, we must temporarily assume
the parameters t and h are not evaluated at zero. Notationally, this is conveniently
indicated by a tilde so that

m
= X(
m
) = X(
m
; t; h), and we will evaluate at
t = h = 0 at the end.
Consideration of the second term should suce. Setting
G
m
=
_

m
G
m
,
we have
G
m
=
_
m
G
m
Xdet DX,
where X represents the restriction of the variation to
m
and the derivative is taken
in M R
3
with respect to p. Eulers kinematical formula tells us how a material
integral changes with the ow of a region of uid. We can cast our present situation
into this framework starting with the preliminary identity

h
det DX = (div
R
3 v) X det DX
where v(x; h) =

X(X
1
(x; h); h) is the spatial velocity associated with the ow X =
X(p; h) and we have simply suppressed the t dependence. It might be expected (or
hoped) that in our situation the motion/ow associated with the variation should be
particularly simple, at least on the solid movable object
m
, and that we might have,
for example, X(p; h) w(p; h) there. However, taking into account the motion of
9
the liquid and that of the contact line of the liquid interface in particular, it is
clear that this would violate the continuity assumption on the variation X : M
(, ) (, ) R
3
. Having made this concession and subjected ourselves to the
added complication that other authors seem to have avoided, it is some consolation,
as pointed out by Finn [Fin05], that the internal motion of the liquid under a variation
of the free surface interface could be very complicated, and we are taking account of
such possibilities.
In any case, we continue to obtain

G
m
=
_

m
DG
m
v + div
R
3 v
=
_

m
div
R
3(G
m
v)
=
_

m
G
m
v N
m
,
so that

G
m

h=0
=
_
m
G
m

X N
m
.
A similar argument applies to the integral over V appearing in G and also yields

|V| =
_

X N +
_
Wm

X N
where we have returned to the general assumption on evaluation, that t = h = 0.
Combining this with (6-8), we have

E/

|V| =
_

(2H + G/ )

X N +
_

(

X n

X ) +

_
Wm
2H
W

X N +
_
Wm
(G/ )

X N +
_
m
(G
m
/)

X N
m
=
_
Wm

X n cos
_
Wm

X +
cos
_
Wm
2H
W

X N +
_
Wm
(G/ )

X N +
_
m
(G
m
/)

X N
m
.
Next we refer to a calculation from [McC07] which uses the fact that w
1
(X; h)
m
when X = X(p; h) w(
m
; h) to show that

X w T
X

m
.
10
It follows that

X may be replaced with w in the formula above. A second calculation
involving an explicit auxiliary variation shows
_
Wm
2H
W
w N =
_
Wm
w .
Making the indicated substitutions, we arrive at our new necessary condition for
equilibrium of a oating object:
Theorem 3 If a oating object
m
subject to gravitational forces (denoted by G and
G
m
as described above) locally minimizes energy among liquid interface congurations
compatible with a smooth family of rigid motions w = w(x; s) with w(x; 0) = id
R
3 and
the wetted region on the oating object is denoted by W
m
, then the conguration must
satisfy
_
Wm
w n +
_
Wm
(G/ ) w N
W
+
_
m
(G
m
/) w N
m
= 0, (9)
where n is the outward pointing unit conormal along the boundary of the liquid inter-
face , N
W
is the unit normal to
m
pointing out of the liquid, N
m
= N
W
, and w
represents the derivative with respect to s evaluated at s = 0.
The condition of the theorem must hold for all w R
3
for free oatation, or more
generally for any collection of directions in which
m
is free to move.
We next proceed to examine the consequences of (9) for the simple cases of oata-
tion suggested in the introduction.
3 Floatation in three dimensions
Here we assume a vertical circular cylindrical vessel is observed with a sphere
m
oating symmetrically along the axis of the vessel and having symmetric circular
contact line at azimuthal angle =

. Assuming the surface of the liquid is also
rotationally symmetric with respect to the same axis, the meridian of the surface
with vertical component u and radial component r considered as functions of arclength
along the meridian must satisfy the boundary value problem
_

_
r = cos
u = sin

= u sin /r
=

and u = d + a cos

when r = r(0) = a sin

= /2
out
when r = r() = R
(10)
11
where we have chosen coordinates so that the center of the oating sphere is (0, 0, d),
and is the total length and is the inclination angle of the meridian. Though the
system of ordinary dierential equations appearing in the problem above has been
studied extensively, the structure of the family of all solutions is little understood.
We conjecture that the boundary value problem as stated here has a unique embedded
solution for each [0, ]. See 5 for a more precise statement. With this assertion
veried, one could commence to determine the parameters d and (and

H which will
make its appearance momentarily) in terms of natural physical parameters such as
the volume constraint |V| = V , and the contact angles and
out
, and so on. In the
absence of such a result, we take a dierent path and proceed directly to the auxiliary
condition (9).
The following formulae, valid in the plane y = x
2
= 0, are useful in simplifying
the integrals in (9):
_

_
N
m
[] = sin

e
1
+ cos

e
3
N
W
[] = N
m
= sin

e
1
cos

e
3
[] = (N
m
)

= cos

e
1
+ sin

e
3
n = cos + sin N
W
= cos(

)e
1
+ sin(

)e
3
N

= (n)

= sin(

)e
1
+ cos(

)e
3
.
(11)
In these formulae, the bracketed indicates validity in the form of the result for an
arbitrary azimuthal angle on
m
though the main interest is on W
m
; e
1
and e
3
are
the standard orthonormal unit vectors in R
3
.
Taking a vertical translation for the rigid motion of
m
so that w = e
3
, the three
terms of (9) are as follows:
_
Wm
e
3
n = 2a sin

sin(

).
_
Wm
(z )e
3
N = a
2
_
(d ) sin
2

2a
3
(1 + cos
3

)
_
.
_
m

0
ze
3
N
m
=
4
3
a
3

0
.
12
Combining these terms and rearranging:
6 sin

sin(

)
a
2
+
3(d ) sin
2

a
2 cos
3

= 2
_
1
2

0
_
. (12)
Next, we make the substitution
2

H = (d + a cos

)
which follows directly from (5). This leads to
6 sin

sin(

)
a
2
+
3(2

H a cos

) sin
2

a
2 cos
3

= 2
_
1
2

0
_
.
This last condition simplies directly into condition (3) of Theorem 2. It remains to
verify the description of the function
F(

) = cos
3

3 cos

+
6
a
_

H +
cos
a
_
sin
2

3 sin
a
2
sin(2

).
The values at the endpoints are immediate. We nd also that
F

]
3
= cos
2

sin

+ sin

+
4
a
_

H +
cos
a
_
sin

cos

2 sin
a
2
cos(2

)
= sin
3

+
2
a
_

H +
cos
a
_
sin(2

)
2 sin
a
2
cos(2

).
Thus, F

(0) = F

() = (6/a
2
) sin < 0. From this it is clear that F must attain
an absolute min at some value less than 2 and an absolute max greater than 2. At
these points, F

must vanish, and it only remains to show these are the only zeros of
F

## on [0, ]. In fact, we see that

F

]
3
= sin
3

+ Asin(2

B)
for some quantities A > 0 and B independent of

. The fact that F

## (0) < 0 tells us

that we may assume 0 < B < . Clearly, since 0

, we have sin
3

0 and
there can be no zero of F

## on the interval [B/2, (B +)/2]. For the rest, we consider

two cases.
CASE I. 0 < B /2, i.e., F

(0) 0.
13
In this case, both terms in the expression for F

0 <

< B/2, so F

## (B) > 0 it does

have exactly one.)
F

must also have a zero on [(B + )/2, ]. Consider the largest such zero, and
observe that
F

]
3
= 3 cos

sin
2

+ 2Acos(2

B)
= (3/2) sin(2

) sin

+ 2Acos(2

B).
It must be the case that F

## 0 at the largest zero, but since F

is positive on
[(B + )/2, ], this means that F

is negative (or F

## is decreasing) on the interval

between (B + )/2 and the largest zero. Since F

## ((B + )/2) = sin

3
(B + )/2 > 0,
there can be no other zeros.
CASE II. /2 B < , i.e., F

(0) 0.
The reection

transforms this case into the rst one with B B.

We note nally that the reader will have no trouble verifying that under the
Archimedean assumptions

H = 0 (a planar interface) and

= (the appropriate
azimuthal angle for a horizontal plane to meet the sphere at the correct contact
angle) the formula in Theorem 2 reduces to the condition of Archimedes.
4 Floatation in two dimensions
Finn has recently considered a variational problem for the energy
E = |

| |W| +G (13)
where

is the linear segment of intersection of an assumed planar/linear interface
with a two-dimensional convex body and G is the specic gravitational energy we have
considered above. The measures appearing in the rst two terms in this functional
are one-dimensional (length) and the integral is an area integral. There is no volume
constraint in Finns problem, nor outer container, and it is an assumption that the
interface always lies along a xed line. Nevertheless, he obtains the striking result
that for some values of >
0
, and there will be an equilibrium which is a
local minimum for energy in which the convex body contacts the interface, i.e., oats.
While Finn gives no precise description of the geometric conguration of oatation
corresponding to our results, we can formulate and extend our results to a problem
14
dimensionally similar his. Various aspects of this two-dimensional problem seeming
to be of interest, we present them now.
Physically, we envision a trough consisting of two vertical walls and a horizontal
bottom. The trough is assumed to extend innitely in the y = x
2
direction and to
be lled with a sea of liquid. Into this sea is introduced a horizontal oating circular
cylinder (an innitely long log) with axis parallel to e
2
. Let us assume that the free
surface interface also is always of cylindrical form with generator parallel to e
2
, so
that if the log is centrally located between the walls and the interface shares the same
midplane symmetry, then the projection of the system onto the x, z-plane resembles
that of the system considered in the previous section (Figure 3, left), though the
equation of the generating curve (and hence its shape) will be be dierent from that
of the meridian previously considered.
The energy of such a system can be taken to have the form of (4)
E = || |W| +G
where the dimensions of the measures have been lowered by one and G =
_
Vm
G is
an area integral. The rst order necessary conditions take the form
k = G/ on the curve ,
cos = at the endpoints of ,
and
w n

+
_
Wm
(G/ ) w N
W
+
_
m
(G
m
/) w N
m
= 0, (14)
where k is the curvature of , and arises from an area constraint on the cross section
of liquid in the trough. In analogy to the three-dimensional case, we assume an area
density for the object, oatation in a liquid of area density
0
, a capillary constant
=
0
g/, and that the radius of the log is a.
Before we begin an analysis of this variational problem in earnest, let us pause to
note what Archimedes principle would state in this lower dimensional case (because
it will appear in a surprising way later):
Theorem 4 According to Archimedes principle in one lower dimension, a homoge-
neous disk/log of density >
0
will sink to the bottom of a bath of density
0
, and a
homogeneous disk/log of density <
0
will oat at a level determined by
2

sin(2

) = 2
_
1

0
_
. (15)
15
We assume initially the contact line (i.e., the two points where meets
m
) is
determined by two azimuthal angles, one

as before and a second

measured in the
counter-clockwise direction from the vertical e
3
; See Figure 3, right. In addition to
(11), the following identities have been found useful.
_

_
N
m
[] = sin

e
1
+ cos

e
3
N
W
[] = N
m
= sin

e
1
cos

e
3
[] = (N
m
)

= cos

e
1
+ sin

e
3
n = cos + sin N
W
= cos(

)e
1
+ sin(

)e
3
N

= (n)

= sin(

)e
1
+ cos(

)e
3
.
(16)
Taking rst a horizontal motion of the oating sphere, so that w = e
1
, we nd
e
1
n

Wm
= cos(

) cos(

)
= 2 sin Bsin(A),
where
A =

2
and B =

2
,
_
Wm
(z )e
1
N
W
= a(d )(cos

cos

) +
a
2
2
(cos
2

cos
2

)
= 2a sin Bsin A(d + a cos Acos B),
and _
m
(

0
z )e
1
N
m
= 0.
Since each of these terms has a factor sin B, we see from condition (14), that one
possibility is sin B = 0. If this holds, it can readily be determined that

=

. Once
this occurs, then since the left and right interfaces must start from the same height
and with the same inclination angle, we have a proof that the axis of the oating
cylinder must lie on the midplane between the vertical walls. This is the conclusion
we would like to make. The other alternative is that
sin(A) + a sin A(d + a cos Acos B) = 0
16
which we rewrite as
[cos + a(d )] sin A +
a
2
2
sin(2A) cos B sin cos A = 0 (17)
Leaving this open as a possibility for the moment, we turn to an independent
vertical translation of
m
with w = e
3
.
e
3
n

Wm
= sin(

) + sin(

)
= 2 cos Bsin(A),
_
Wm
(z )e
3
N
W
= a(d )(sin

+ sin

) +
a
2
4
(sin(2

) + sin(2

)) +
a
2
2
(

+

) a
2

## = 2a cos Bsin A(d ) +

a
2
2
(sin(2A) cos(2B)) +
a
2
2
(

+

) a
2
,
and _
m

0
z e
3
N
m
= a
2

0
.
Combining these terms to form the expression in (14), we arrive at a second necessary
condition
[cos + a(d )] sin Acos B sin cos Acos B+
a
2
2
sin Acos A(1 2 sin
2
B) +
a
2
4
(

+

)
=
a
2

2
_
1

0
_
. (18)
Multiplying the equation in (17) by cos B and subtracting the result from (18) and
simplifying, we obtain the surprising condition

+

sin(

+

) = 2
_
1

0
_
. (19)
This is surprising because it says that if the log oats anywhere but in the middle
between the vertical walls of the trough, then the part of the log that rises above
17
the surface of the liquid must be prescribed exactly as Archimedes said it should.
In particular, the portion that is wetted is independent of all parameters except the
density fraction (!), a scenario which we view as highly unlikely. The fact, that we
cannot rule out this possibility leads to the following curious result.
Theorem 5 In the two-dimensional oating log problem described above, either the
axis of the log lies in the vertical midplane determined by the sides of the vessel, or
the wetted/nonwetted region is determined by the generalized version of Archimedes
condition given in (19).
We will return to the last possibility in the last section of the paper. For now,
we pursue a course similar to that which we were forced to pursue in the three-
dimensional case by assuming symmetry of the interface with respect to the midplane.
When

=

, condition (18) associated with the vertical translation is still non-
vacuous and becomes
F(

) = 2

+ sin(2

) +
4
a
2
sin(

) +
4
a
(d ) sin

= 2
_
1

0
_
.
Again following the three-dimensional case, we let

k = (d + a cos

)
denote the curvature of the interface at the contact line on the object. Substitution
yields
Theorem 6 A log that oats in a centrally symmetric position as described above un-
der the eects of surface tension and adhesion eects must oat at a level determined
by the azimuthal angle

satisfying
2

sin(2

) +
4
a
2
sin(

) +
4

k
a
sin

= 2
_
1

0
_
. (20)
where

k is the curvature of the interface at the contact line, and is the contact angle
of the interface with the oating log.
The behavior of the function
F(

) = 2

sin(2

) +
4
a
2
sin(

) +
4

k
a
sin

18
is somewhat dierent than that in the three-dimensional case; see Figure 6. One sees
rst of all that
F(0) =
4
a
2
sin < 0; F() = 2 +
4
a
2
sin > 2.
Thus, the endpoint values do not coincide with the extremes of the expression on the
right in (20) associated with = 0 and =
0
. Nevertheless, the interval between
0 and 2 is clearly covered by the values of F(

## ) and, in fact, each value is taken

exactly once. To see this we compute
F

)
2
= 1 cos(2

) +
2
a
2
cos(

) +
2

k
a
cos

## and observe rst that

F

(0)
2
=
2
a
2
cos() +
2

k
a
=
F

()
2
.
It follows that F

## is nonpositive at one of the endpoints and has the opposite sign

at the other. Using this, reasoning similar to that found in 3 shows F

can have at
most one zero on [0, ].
0.5 1.0 1.5 2.0 2.5 3.0
1
2
3
4
5
6
0.5 1.0 1.5 2.0 2.5 3.0
2
2
4
6
8
10
0.5 1.0 1.5 2.0 2.5 3.0
2
2
4
6
8
10
Figure 6: The azimuthal angles determined by Theorems 4 (left) and 6 (middle);
plotted together on the right
Therefore, some salient features of Theorem 2 hold also in this lower dimensional
case. For xed

k and , if
0
, there is a unique height at which the disk/log
can oat; there is an interval
0
< <
max
on which there is at least one (and
sometimes two) possible heights at which oatation can occur. One expects that if
two azimuthal angles are determined by (20), the larger one is the physically relevant.
19
5 Conjectures and Questions
We consider rst the three dimensional case, concerning which we make what we be-
lieve is a reasonable but dicult conjecture concerning the solutions of the boundary
value problem (10).
Conjecture 1 Given d, and

xed (all the other parameters being obviously deter-
mined by the physical problem and also given), there is at most one embedded solution
of the boundary value problem (10).
Under certain circumstances, we can sharpen this conjecture considerably. Let us
assume the interface is given by the graph of a function u over the horizontal x, y-
plane. In this case, the circular base of the cylinder may be partitioned into the
annular region A beneath the interface and the disk B beneath the submerged portion
of the sphere. Also, we may use the well known nonparametric mean curvature
equation:
div
_
Du
_
1 +|Du|
2
_
= u .
Integrating the equation over A, we obtain
V
A
|A| = 2a sin

sin(

) + 2Rcos
out
where V
A
=
_
A
u is the volume of liquid present over A. On the other hand, this
volume can be computed by subtracting the volume over B from the total volume:
V
A
= |V| da
2
sin
2

+
2a
3
3
(1 + cos
3

).
Similarly, |A| = R
2
a
2
sin
2

.
Combining these relations and using the denition 2

H = (d + a cos

) , we
nd
2 sin

(sin

sin(

) +

Ha sin

)
=

a
|V| 2
Rcos
out
a

R
2
a
+
a
2
3
(2 cos
3

+ 3 cos

). (21)
On the other hand, we can rewrite condition (3), as
cos
3

3 cos

+
6 sin

a
2
(sin(

) +

Ha sin

) = 2
_
1
2

0
_
,
20
so that on substituting from (21) for the last term on the left, we nd
3
a
2
_
|V|
a

2Rcos
out
a

R
2
a
_
=
4

0
.
It will be noted that

has disappeared from the equation. Next it will be noted that
may now be determined in terms of |V|, , a, R, /
0
, and
out
, but independently
of and

. Given this, one can evidently go back to (12), the version of (3) we had
before introducing

H, and solve for d in terms of

.
Conjecture 2 It should be possible as long as
0
(and as long as the level of the
bath is deep enough and |V| is large enough so that when the sphere is pushed to the
bottom, there is enough liquid to cover it) to:
1. solve for in terms of |V|, , a, R, /
0
, and
out
,
2. solve for d in terms of

, and the other parameters, so that everything is in
terms of

, and
3. nd a unique value of

and a unique embedded solution of (10) satisfying all
conditions of the problem.
This conjecture is for the case <
0
. In principle similar assertions should hold in
some cases for
0
. A fundamental diculty of the conjecture is that parametric
interfaces are included; there is no known standard procedure for determining the
Lagrange parameter in such cases. Given the conjecture above, the value of d and
and, hence, the value of

H should be determined. From this, we can compute the
value of
max
determined by the function F(

## ) appearing on the left in (3). There

is a problem, however, in the identication of this value with the physical maximum
density for which oatation can occur. Nevertheless, our results suggest the following:
Conjecture 3 There is a nontrivial interval of densities
0
< <
phys
for which
a given sphere of xed radius a and density admits a solution as described in the
proceeding conjecture.
It should be noted that the existence of a meridian curve satisfying the conditions
of (10) and the volume constraint etc., by no means guarantees that such a sphere
will oat in the position thereby described. The stability of these congurations, were
they to be determined, must still be analyzed. As a rst guess we have the following
which comes from experimentation and is primarily of interest due to the appearance
of the quantity

H:
21
Conjecture 4 (experimental) If a centrally symmetric equilibrium exists, as con-
jectured above, and the sphere is lighter than the liquid ( <
0
), then the resulting
oatation conguration will be stable if

H < 0 and will be unstable otherwise, with
the sphere tending to the side if

H > 0. If the sphere is heavier ( >
0
), then the
stability criteria will be reversed.
We emphasize that these conditions are derived from a limited range of parame-
ters, and we expect the actual stability conditions to be (much) more complicated.
Nevertheless, these observations were central in the formulation of the main results
above (due to the signicant role played by

H), and for this reason we felt it worth
mentioning.
Finally, we have
Conjecture 5 For any sphere which oats in a stable conguration in the center of
a cylindrical bath with
0
, the azimuthal angle

determined by the larger solution
of (3) is the one which will be observed physically.
We next turn to the two-dimensional case. The conjectures above, can of course
be adapted to this case, but we leave that adaptation to the reader and proceed to
some comments concerning the possibility of having diering azimuthal angles. The
main conjecture is that (17) and (18) are incompatible conditions for

=

. Were
this the case, it would say that the only possible equilibria are the symmetric ones.
This also can be sharpened via an interesting calculation. Starting with (17) which
we write as
[cos + a(d )] sin Asin cos A + a
2
sin Acos Acos B = 0,
we consider the curvatures at the two contact points

k = (d + a cos

) and

k = (d + a cos

) ,
and the average k
avg
for which
d = k
avg
a cos Acos B.
Substituting the last into the rst, we nd (cos +k
avg
a) sin Asin cos A = 0. (The
signicance is that B is eliminated from the equation.) Recall that A is the average
of the azimuthal angles.
22
Conjecture 6 Assuming , k
avg
, a, and /
0
are given and xed, there is no value
of A satisfying the system
(cos + ak
avg
) sin A sin cos A = 0
2Asin(2A) = 2
_
1

0
_
.
Several of the conjectures above admit substantial numerical verication, though there
may still be outlying cases of which we are not aware.
We note nally that we have obtained global oatation congurations numerically.
The stability and uniqueness of those congurations is not presently known. Below
we give representative global congurations which have been obtained and a list of
the relevant parameters. In all trials a = 1, = 1, and R = 2 and question marks
refer to Conjecture 4. In the two-dimensional case, the area of the cross section of
liquid is taken to be 10.
3 2 1 0 1 2 3
0
0.5
1
1.5
2
2.5
3
3.5
4
4.5
5
x
height
4 3 2 1 0 1 2 3 4
0
1
2
3
4
5
6
x
height
3 2 1 0 1 2 3
0
0.5
1
1.5
2
2.5
3
3.5
4
4.5
x
height
4 3 2 1 0 1 2 3 4
0
1
2
3
4
5
6
x
height
4 3 2 1 0 1 2 3 4
0
1
2
3
4
5
6
x
height
4 3 2 1 0 1 2 3 4
0
1
2
3
4
5
6
x
height
Figure 7: Two-Dimensional Case (oating logs). Table shows parameters for each
conguration from left to right.
/

out
d

## (1) Lightest 0 /2 /2 1.8850 1.0860 1.9284

(2) Heavy 1 /2 /2 2.6504 3.4494 1.2132
(3) Flat .5 /2 /2 1.6427 1.6427 1.5708
(4) Denser 1.6 /2 /2 1.9934 3.9663 0.4973
(5) Untable(?) .5 /4 /4 2.3777 2.7878 0.7328
(6) Stable(?) .5 /4 3/4 2.7382 3.4704 1.0150
In the three dimensional cases the volume of liquid is taken to be 25.
23
3 2 1 0 1 2 3
0
0.5
1
1.5
2
2.5
3
3.5
4
4.5
5
r
height
3 2 1 0 1 2 3
0
0.5
1
1.5
2
2.5
3
3.5
4
4.5
5
r
height
3 2 1 0 1 2 3
0
0.5
1
1.5
2
2.5
3
3.5
4
4.5
5
r
height
2.5 2 1.5 1 0.5 0 0.5 1 1.5 2 2.5
0
0.5
1
1.5
2
2.5
3
3.5
4
r
height
3 2 1 0 1 2 3
0
0.5
1
1.5
2
2.5
3
3.5
4
4.5
r
height
3 2 1 0 1 2 3
0
0.5
1
1.5
2
2.5
3
3.5
4
4.5
5
r
height
Figure 8: Three-Dimensional Case (oating balls). Table shows parameters for each
conguration from left to right.
/

out
d

## (1) Lightest 0 /2 /2 2.1174 1.8486 1.7086

(2) Heavy 1 /2 /2 1.8689 2.1377 1.4330
(3) Flat .5 /2 /2 1.9902 1.9902 1.5708
(4) Denser 2.1 /2 /2 1.4293 2.5321 0.9293
(5) Untable(?) .5 /4 /4 1.3646 1.4679 0.7790
(6) Stable(?) .5 /4 3/4 2.0192 2.6403 1.2570
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25