The Floater

The Floater

American citizens protesting the Trump presidency have taken to wearing safety pins to show their solidarity. Similarly, the paperclip, was used as a symbol of resistance against the Nazis in World War 2. With this in mind, grab a paperclip (or a safety pin) and try out this challenge.

Guide lines
Ready, Steady, Go!

Paperclips are made of metal, and sink to the bottom of a glass of water. The challenge is for you or anther person is to get the paperclip to float on top of the glass of water. Call someone over.

Lend me your ears


By using anything on hand, can you get this to float, unaided, on top of this water?

Give them some time and paperclips to try it out.

Seal the Deal and Reveal

The trick comes when inserting the object into the water. You need to be as gentle as possible.

However, your fingers aren’t as gentle as a paper napkin. Tear off a strip of napkin and place it on the surface of the water. Then place the paperclip on top of the floating napkin.

Use another paperclip to sink the napkin, or let it sink on its own after a few moments.


Voila, metal floats on water.

Some extra lines you can try

  • Whatever floats your boat... or even floats your paperclip / safety pin.
  • When you can’t figure it out, this challenge really gives you a sinking feeling.
  • Paperclips aren’t just for keeping your paperwork together, they’re also good for connecting people. (Safety pins aren’t just for keeping your fabric together, they’re also good for connecting people.)
Alternative ending

How many paperclips can you get floating at one time? And if you’re anti-Trump, share the safety pin challenge with others.

Anticipated responses and retorts

Can you float a coin?

Your money will hit the bottom. Well, you know.

What do we learn from this?

That paperclips are not as boring as we once thought.

How do you explain this floating paperclip?

Good question … but, what is more important is that this gets people talking.
Good follow ups
When & where
When to use it
  • When you want to get people curious.
  • When you want to demonstrate some physics in action.
  • When you want to float their goat (ok ok … just smile).
Where to use it
  • The breakfast table
  • The office canteen
  • Cocktail parties
  • Socializing at the pub
Getting ready
Items required
  • A glass of water and some paperclips or safety pins.
  • Have your glass of water ready, get some paperclips and a paper napkin, and you are all set.
Training required
  • This requires a gentle touch – try this on your own a few times to get the hang of it.
Watch out (potential unexpected effects)
  • Safe as can be.

type type

Do It Yourself (DIY)

material material

a glass of water, some paperclips and a paper napkin

size size

you should have all these things around the house and the office

durability durability

don’t drink the water and you will be good for a while

source source

the ether

time to impact time to impact

pretty much there and then

size of audience size of audience

one-on-one or a small group

possible health risk possible health risk

don’t sip the water and accidentally swallow a paperclip

reusable how many times you can use it

many times

training needed training needed

be gentle, and give this a few practice rounds

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