Department of Energy Argonne National Laboratory Office of Science NEWTON's Homepage NEWTON's Homepage
NEWTON, Ask A Scientist!
NEWTON Home Page NEWTON Teachers Visit Our Archives Ask A Question How To Ask A Question Question of the Week Our Expert Scientists Volunteer at NEWTON! Frequently Asked Questions Referencing NEWTON About NEWTON About Ask A Scientist Education At Argonne Big Nuts, Center of Mass, and Potential Energy
Name: Donald
Status: other
Age: N/A
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: N/A

When opening a can of mixed nuts, why are the largest and heaviest always on top?

At first, this inversion of the larger components "rising" to the top seems counter-intuitive. The reason for this is a factor that is not so important in fluids, but is important in granular media. The large "chunks" form an open cell rigid structure. The smaller components can "rattle around" and fall through the spaces in the open cells between the larger immobilized components. Eventually with shaking it is the smaller particles that "sink" to the bottom, in between the spaces formed by the larger granules.

Vince Calder

Click here to return to the Physics Archives

NEWTON is an electronic community for Science, Math, and Computer Science K-12 Educators, sponsored and operated by Argonne National Laboratory's Educational Programs, Andrew Skipor, Ph.D., Head of Educational Programs.

For assistance with NEWTON contact a System Operator (, or at Argonne's Educational Programs

Educational Programs
Building 360
9700 S. Cass Ave.
Argonne, Illinois
60439-4845, USA
Update: June 2012
Weclome To Newton

Argonne National Laboratory