You need to weigh some water.All you have is a paperclip


Let us assume you You need to measure the quality of some water, and you want to build a scale to accomplish it. But you are in an ordinary house filled with ordinary things. No fancy scientific equipment. Can you do it with ordinary household items?

I think this is indeed possible, and I will try to do it-with a paperclip.

Okay, but why?This started with my work as a technical consultant for the CBS show McGover. My job is to check the scientific rationality of different hackers, and sometimes I suggest MacGyver ways to get rid of difficult situations. One of MacGyver’s favorite things to use is paper clips-so I thought I would see how many things I can do with them.

So far, I have made some cool paperclip-based gadgets.

It is fun to make complex objects with basic parts-this is how MacGyver does.

It is scale now. This may seem simple, but some graphics will be involved, so this might be more suitable as a blog post than a video. let’s do it.

Remember, the goal here is to measure the quality of some water. Since we are on the surface of the earth, there is a constant relationship between mass and weight-so we technically have to measure the weight of water. What is the difference between mass and weight? This is my full explanation, But in short, mass is the amount of matter (protons, neutrons, electrons) that make up an object, and weight is the gravitational force the earth exerts on the object.

So how to measure weight? It turns out that most of our measurement tools are actually used to measure distance. (This is real-check it out.) In this case, we can determine the weight (and mass) of something by measuring the deflection or bending of the paperclip. If you straighten the paperclip into a long thread, the more you push at one end, the more it bends. However, when it is curled into a normal paperclip shape, it is much more difficult to fold. This is very similar to the force required to stretch a spring, which is more difficult to deform than a straight line. However, for an ideal spring, the stretching distance is linearly proportional to the stretching force, which may not be the case with a bent paper clip.

So the idea is that if we flatten the paperclip, we can turn it into a lever arm to help us weigh the water.

Let’s build this thing. This is what I have.

Photography: Reid Allan

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *