Marvin and Milo

Explore physics the exciting way, by trying out a simple and fun experiment. This month, Paperclip afloat Don't forget to check back next month for the next edition...

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113 paperclip artworkWeb.jpg

What you need

A paperclip

A cereal bowl


Washing-up liquid

A tissue


Put the paperclip on a flat piece of tissue in the empty bowl.

Fill the bowl with water, being careful not to pour water directly on top of the paperclip and tissue.

The tissue will sink as it absorbs water, but the paperclip will float! Now put a drop of washing-up liquid in the bowl. The paperclip will sink!

Results & explanation

Although the paperclip should be heavy enough to sink, the surface tension of the water holds it up. When the washing-up liquid dissolves in the water it lowers the overall surface tension, so the paperclip sinks.


Read more about surface tension on


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