Noah's Ark would have been able to carry two of every animal species and could have floated for 40 days and 40 nights just fine, physicists have worked out.

A group of students from the University of Leicester's Department of Physics and Astronomy used dimensions given in the Bible to work out if Noah and his menagerie could have survived the great flood in the Ark as per the Bible said he did.

Noah's Ark was built to accommodate at least two of every animal species. In the book of Genesis, chapter 6:13-22, Noah is commanded to build an ark to survive a flood.

In the dimensions given in the Bible, God tells Noah to build to boat 300 cubits long, 50 cubits wide and 30 cubits high.

Using these dimensions and Archimedes' principle and suitable approximations, the fourth years students decided to test out God's dimensions to mark the release of Russell Crowe's biblical epic Noah.

Research leader Oliver Youle said: "Every object when immersed in a liquid has an upwards force acting against it – a buoyancy force; it also has a weight acting downwards – a downwards force, and in order for it to float, these two forces need to be equal."

Cubits are an archaic measurement based on the distance between the elbow and the tip of the middle finger. Once cubit, the researchers estimated, was 48.2cm.

Noah was also instructed to use "gopher wood" to make the Ark, so the team had to calculate the weight of the empty ark, the density of the wood and the mass of the animals on board – the average animal has a mass equal to one sheep, 23.47kg.

Researcher Benjamin Jordon said: "Using the dimensions of the ark and the density of the water, we were able to calculate its buoyancy force, which, according to Archimedes' principle, is equal to the weight of the volume of fluid the object displaces.

"This meant we were then able to estimate the total mass the ark could support before the gravitational weight would overcome the buoyancy force, causing the ark to sink, which we calculated as 50.54x106kg."

Oliver added: "Our conclusions were that the ark would support the weight of 2.15 million sheep without sinking and that should be enough to support all of the species that were around at the time."

Published in the university's Journal of Physics Special Topics, student Thomas Morris said it is interesting to see that the Bible was scientifically accurate: "I guess we were quite surprised when we discovered it would work. We're not proving that it's true, but the concept would definitely work."

While the Ark could have supported the weight of the animals – estimated to be 35,000 – the researchers did not work out if they could have all fitted inside the boat.