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Mercury, Hg(from latin "hydragyrum", meaning liquid silver), 80, is a fairly average metal similar to tin, however it is much heavier, and it is a liquid. Mercury is most well known for being a liquid, but also more recently for being a neurotoxin, and poisoning the brain slowly if inhaled.

Mercury has been known for a long time, it's somewhat easy to get, you just heat a red mineral called cinnibar, then cool it down without letting air in or out, and you get mercury. This process has been carried out for many thousands of years.

The first emperor of china thought that such a beautiful material would give him imortality if he drank it, and died from liver failer in a matter of days. A fountain was constructed in his tomb which flowed mercury instead of water. Ah, the irony. A similar fountain was constructed at the 1937 World Expo in Paris, but was removed quickly due to it's suddanly noticable toxicity to everyone who went near it.

Mercury has always been useful because of it's liquid state, it has well known uses in thermometers(which now use alcohol instead), as well as switches, which consisted of an amount of mercury in a glass vial along with two terminals. Because mercury is conductive, you could tilt the vial so that the mercury connected the two terminals, and the switch would turn on. These switches where very commonly used in older thermostats, which I prize for their quaint mechanical workings.

Mercury is also toxic in the form of vapors, and because mercury will readily vaporize at room temperature, this is a valid problem. If mercury enters the blood stream, it will start poisoning new brain connections, and will slowly un-do all the functions of the brain. A famous use of mercury was in hat making, where mercury nitrate was used to remove fur from animal hides and to bond it into felt, so because the hat makers or "hatters" where around it so often, they often became "as mad as a hatter", hence the phrase.

These are my samples!

Miniature Mercury Switch

This is a miniature mercury switch, new in it's original packaging! Bought from a box of old radio parts at a flea market.

Date added(year-month-day):20120511, sample number:102

Tags(Elements in sample):mercury

Vacuum Tube With Uranium AND Mercury

This most unusual vacuum tube, which serves as a rectifier for high voltage AC electricity, happens to also contain mercury, which vaporizes inside to help the almost-vacuum conduct a little better, and also employs uranium glass in the seals between metal and glass, because adding uranium slightly changes how the glass expands, so by having uranium glass between normal glass and metal, you can avoid the glass cracking/the metal falling out. Quite an unusual piece, a rare combination of three of my favorite things!

Date added(year-month-day):20111012, sample number:74

Tags(Elements in sample):uranium, mercury, vacuum, radioactive

Mercury Vapor Lamp

Small mercury vapor lamp, found at a flea market from someone who had probably no idea what it was. If I had to guess this would be an excellent source of short-wave ultraviolet, if it didn't blind and give you cancer at the same time. Another reason I bought this is because I have a xenon projector lamp just like it, they make such a nice pair.

Date added(year-month-day):20110809, sample number:54

Tags(Elements in sample):mercury, vacuum


This is a couple of grams of mercury metal, extracted carefully from a silent light switch. The cap is on tightly, and stays on tightly. Video of this mercury here, although not the best lighting it gets the idea across.

Date added(year-month-day):20110726, sample number:36

Tags(Elements in sample):mercury

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