Physics Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for active researchers, academics and students of physics. It's 100% free.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Let us consider a completely sealed weighing scale such that the air pressure above and below the pan of the scale are equal and is equal to 1 atm. pressure. The scale initially reads zero. Now if this weighing scale is placed in a completely evacuated chamber, will there be any change in the reading? I am guessing that as the force due to atmospheric pressure above the pan of the scale is now absent, but the air pressure below the pan is still present, the scale will show a negative reading as it experiences a net upward force which is equal in magnitude to the force exerted by the atmosphere on the pan initially. Is this reasoning correct? If not, what is the actual answer?

share|cite|improve this question
If it is placed in a completely evacuated chamber, air-pressure from all sides will be 0. Why do you say air pressure will be present below the pan? – mikhailcazi Jul 7 '13 at 13:04
And if the pressure on all sides are still the same in a near vacuum than the masses you weigh will be slightly heavier, since before they where experiencing a small buoyancy force. – fibonatic Jul 7 '13 at 13:31
@michailcazi the weighing scale is completely sealed so whatever air was present inside it(ie. between the pan and the body of the machine) is still present in it though the instrument is in vacuum. – Ajaykrishnan Jayagopal Jul 8 '13 at 16:48
up vote 0 down vote accepted

Yes, what you have is called a "barometer".

share|cite|improve this answer

You must consider the effect of air pressure on each side of the pan when reading the weight, because the scale measures the exerted force, and this force can be exerted from the air pressure as well as any other object on the scale.

So, if the pressure below the pan is 1atm more than the pressure above, your explanation is correct and there will be a negative number.

share|cite|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.