Floating on Mercury

See my other posts: cautious fun with mercury

Here is a discription of the artwork by the artist Calder himself.

Floating on Mercury: metal mercury (Hg) is liquid at room temperature, and it is 13.5 times more dense than water- more dense than many other metals. US coins float on its surface! This demonstration was inspired by the Mercury Fountain of Calder (swipe to see in action) that I posted about a few days ago. In one historical account it was mentioned that visitors at the 1937 World’s Fair would toss coins into the fountain (as folks like to do) and were then astonished that the coins did not sink into the liquid- and hundreds of French francs were skimmed off the surface each day. Caution: contact with the skin and breathing vapors are to be avoided with mercury- make sure to have proper training when investigating this hazardous material. 

Mercury Fountain of Calder

This fountain is on display here:

Visit: Fundació Joan Miró

Here is a discription of the artwork by the artist Calder himself.

See my other posts: cautious fun with mercury

Mercury Fountain: Some amazing physics fun from my January holiday in Barcelona- a fountain of flowing metal with 150 liters of mercury filling a two meter in diameter reflecting pool. This fountain is kinetic art created for the 1937 World’s Fair in Paris by the famous artist of mobiles, Alexander Calder, and features aspects of his trademark design. Given the density of mercury at 13.5 g/ml, the liquid in the fountain weighs in at roughly 2000 kg (4500 lbs), and at the bottom of the fountain Calder utilizes the small but massive droplets to impact a paddle which keeps the mobile components in motion. This work also has important historical significance as a political statement against injustice. Note that the top of the mobile includes, in cursive, Almaden, in remembrance of the mercury mining town that suffered under Franko’s siege during the Spanish Civil War in 1936. The fountain now sits behind thick sealed glass on display in the Joan Miró Foundation museum atop Montjuïc in Barcelona.

Zeeman Effect on Mercury Green Emission Line

Wikipedia has a nice introduction to the Zeeman Effect 

Visit the Exploratorium 

Zeeman Effect on Mercury Green Emission Line @exploratorium: directly explore the Quantum Mechanics of electron spin with this amazing interactive exhibit. Excited Mercury gas emits a bright green line at 546nm (seen here as concentric circles using a Fabry-Perot interferometer) due to electrons transitioning between the quantized energy levels. We learn in chemistry that electrons come two to a shell with opposing spins (Pauli Exclusion). Indeed when the excited Mercury tube is placed in between magnets the green line splits, demonstrating that the electrons now have slightly different energies corresponding to the spin orientations interacting with the magnetic field. Advanced level quantum phenomena in a museum exhibit! ?With special thanks to the Exploratorium! 


Mercury Maze

These vintage items from the 1980s can be found on eBay and Etsy quite often (two available as of this posting): 
From eBay: BUY NOW: Mercury Maze 

Mercury Maze: metal mercury (Hg) is liquid at room temperature, and small blobs of it roll in a peculiar way. The curious properties of elemental mercury are showcased in this vintage toy from the 1970s. Mercury is very toxic and toys like this are now banned in most countries. Mostly dangerous if the toy were to break open- contact with the skin and breathing vapors are to be avoided with mercury.