V. GALILEO AND THE NEW PHYSICS
"I will not omit another reason, founded also upon experience, and, if I deceive not myself, conclusive against the notion that figure, and the resistance of the water to penetration, have anything to do with the buoyancy of bodies. Choose a piece of wood or other matter, as, for instance, walnut-wood, of which a ball rises from the bottom of the water to the surface more slowly than a ball of ebony of the same size sinks, so that, clearly, the ball of ebony divides the water more readily in sinking than the ball of wood does in rising. Then take a board of walnut-tree equal to and like the floating one of my antagonists; and if it be true that this latter floats by reason of the figure being unable to penetrate the water, the other of walnut-tree, without a question, if thrust to the bottom, ought to stay there, as having the same impeding figure, and being less apt to overcome the said resistance of the water. But if we find by experience that not only the thin board, but every other figure of the same walnut-tree, will return to float, as unquestionably we shall, then I must desire my opponents to forbear to attribute the floating of the ebony to the figure of the board, since the resistance of the water is the same in rising as in sinking, and the force of ascension of the walnut-tree is less than the ebony's force for going to the bottom.
"Now let us return to the thin plate of gold or silver, or the thin board of ebony, and let us lay it lightly upon the water, so that it may stay there without sinking, and carefully observe the effect. It will appear clearly that the plates are a considerable matter lower than the surface of the water, which rises up and makes a kind of rampart round them on every side. But if it has already penetrated and overcome the continuity of the water, and is of its own nature heavier than the water, why does it not continue to sink, but stop and suspend itself in that little dimple that its weight has made in the water? My answer is, because in sinking till its surface is below the water, which rises up in a bank round it, it draws after and carries along with it the air above it, so that that which, in this case, descends in the water is not only the board of ebony or the plate of iron, but a compound of ebony and air, from which composition results a solid no longer specifically heavier than the water, as was the ebony or gold alone. But, gentlemen, we want the same matter; you are to alter nothing but the shape, and, therefore, have the goodness to remove this air, which may be done simply by washing the surface of the board, for the water having once got between the board and the air will run together, and the ebony will go to the bottom; and if it does not, you have won the day.
"But methinks I hear some of my antagonists cunningly opposing this, and telling me that they will not on any account allow their boards to be wetted, because the weight of the water so added, by making it heavier than it was before, draws it to the bottom, and that the addition of new weight is contrary to our agreement, which was that the matter should be the same.
"To this I answer, first, that nobody can suppose bodies to be put into the water without their being wet, nor do I wish to do more to the board than you may do to the ball. Moreover, it is not true that the board sinks on account of the weight of the water added in the washing; for I will put ten or twenty drops on the floating board, and so long as they stand separate it shall not sink; but if the board be taken out and all that water wiped off, and the whole surface bathed with one single drop, and put it again upon the water, there is no question but it will sink, the other water running to cover it, being no longer hindered by the air. In the next place, it is altogether false that water can in any way increase the weight of bodies immersed in it, for water has no weight in water, since it does not sink. Now just as he who should say that brass by its own nature sinks, but that when formed into the shape of a kettle it acquires from that figure the virtue of lying in water without sinking, would say what is false, because that is not purely brass which then is put into the water, but a compound of brass and air; so is it neither more nor less false that a thin plate of brass or ebony swims by virtue of its dilated and broad figure. Also, I cannot omit to tell my opponents that this conceit of refusing to bathe the surface of the board might beget an opinion in a third person of a poverty of argument on their side, especially as the conversation began about flakes of ice, in which it would be simple to require that the surfaces should be kept dry; not to mention that such pieces of ice, whether wet or dry, always float, and so my antagonists say, because of their shape.