Something to Think About

"I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love."
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Alphabe-Thursday! The letter Q!

Quicksilver - otherwise known as mercury - is an amazing element!
On the periodic table, it's symbol is HG. (for hydrargyrum which is Greek for water silver)

I've been fascinated by mercury ever since I broke a mercury thermometer when I was young. (I was trying to shake down the mercury to take my temperature and I accidentally dropped it. It shattered on our hardwood floor and I remember corralling the beads of mercury into one large bead before my mother caught me playing with it.)

Some facts about mercury:
  • A compound containing mercury was used by hat makers from the mid-18th century until the mid-19th century to separate the fur from a pelt. The expression "mad as a hatter" came about because of the psychological symptoms of mercury poisoning which many hatters suffered from due to the toxic vapors they inhaled!
  • Lewis and Clark took liberal doses of a laxative called Dr. Rush's Billious Pills - which were about 50% mercury - on their travels. To this day, one can follow their trail by following the um... heavy metal deposits left behind.
  • Mercury was named after the Roman god of the same name.
Of course, mercury is highly toxic so one must be careful when handling it!

photo by p. Gordon


  1. It's a good thing your mother found you before you'd spent much time touching those beads!

  2. "mad as a hatter" - didn't even know that was where this phrase came from.

    great q post.

  3. Isn't that amazing? Apparently it's in all those energy saving light bulbs too. Yuk.

  4. Just how dangerous can Mercury be? My husband's father was a dentist, and used mercury in amalgam fillings. We used to play with mercury when we were kids! We used to cover dimes with mercury to make them shine! Now we are adults, and no longer young, and we are perfectly fine. DID YOU HEAR ME??? WE ARE FINE!!!!

  5. Hello.
    I've always known mercury can be a problem. It's also in some fish.

    Thanks for sharing.

    I'm here:
    Quiet Winds Of The Night

  6. I remember being fascinated with this when I was a child - it was a big deal when a thermometer broke!

  7. I remember watching beads of mercury in a Chemistry lesson at school. It is fascinating stuff. How interesting about the phrase 'Mad as a hatter'!

  8. Oh, I loved this post.

    I did the same thing when I was small...but I did it again, on purpose.

    Might explain a few things about the way my brain works. ha!

    This was really quite a fascinating post for the letter Q.

    Thanks for sharing it.