It's been hot in the coastal foothills of California (afternoon highs ranging from 102 to 107F), and we've been cooling off in the pool and with a steady supply of cold drinks. But the search for truth marches on, even on vacation, and in that spirit we did a little experimentation this afternoon. Does Diet Coke ™ really float, while the high calorie stuff sinks? Not having any on hand, we substituted Diet 7-Up and Sierra Mist (non-diet) and dropped away. Sure enough the diet stuff floats.
Why? The cans are the same size, but the non-diet soda weighs more. Why? Do calories have mass? One of my brothers suggested it was because sugar is a heavier molecule than aspartame (NutraSweet ™). This is true - sucrose weighs in at 342.3 daltons while aspartame comes in just under 300 (294.3 daltons), but not the solution to the mystery. The relative sweetness of the two molecules is the key. You need less than 100 mg of aspartame to equal the sweetness of the roughly 40 g of sugar in the regular soda. Both have the same volume of solution, the sugar one is denser than water and sinks. But wait...why isn't the diet stuff denser than water, too? It should be just a little heavier than just plain water not? True, but the air bubble in the top of the can is just enough to offset it.
13 hours ago in Variety of Life