Monday, July 22, 2002

the shape of mercury

i've been doing some research on mercury for a paper i'm writing. mercury is a fascinating element: the only common metal that is liquid at ordinary temperatures, but rarely occurring free in nature, mercury takes the shape of its container. and although its colour is silvery-white, mercury is also reflective, which means that it can take on the appearance of its surroundings.

i'm generally interested in these "mimetic" properties of mercury, and particularly in how mercury changes shape as it flows. virginia tech researchers have simulated the behavior of emulsions as they mix and break into drops, but it's hard to find work on mercury that isn't dedicated to its toxic qualities.

i'll have to get to the library and check out what alchemists thought about mercury - surely they had some ideas on its more magical and playful qualities...

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