# I'd put my hand in a beaker of mercury...

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http://www.scienceforums.net/topic/75161-the-mercury-plasma-ion-propulsion-engine/page-3?p=840405#entry840405

John wrote this post which included the phrase "I'd put my hand in a beaker of mercury"

Aside from safety concerns - which was the original area of the comment - How easy would it be to "put my hand in a beaker of mercury" and what would the sensation be like?

iirc Mercury is denser than almost every other liquid at rtp, it flows quickly but beads together - so would it be like heavy, and unyielding treacle? Dense and strange custard? Difficult to tell the difference from a beaker of water?

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Out of interest, what are the safety implications?

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Elemental mercury doesn't stick to your skin and stays as a single deformable bead as it rolls around in your hand. I punctured one of my mercury hearing batteries with a nail as a kid and got a bit out; maybe 2mm in diameter. As far as I understand it's the mercury compounds that are really hazardous because they are more easily absorbed although elemental mercury is toxic if it gets in your body ...it's natural repellent nature doesn't facilitate absorption through the skin though. I definitely wouldn't handle it directly as matter of habit though because it is a serious cumulative toxin if it gets inside you and there's no point in inviting risk.

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Boo!! I'm dying to stick my hand in a beaker of the stuff now

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Do you saw Discovery tv document series "Gold Rush"? In later one, in South America, native Indians were using Mercury to extract Gold, with bare hand playing with Hg-Au balls.. And burning them in fire..

http://www.miningfacts.org/environment/does-mining-use-mercury/

Probably I don't have to mention how stupid it is.. ?

Edited by Sensei
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The reason it stays in a ball on your hand and doesn't 'wet' your skin is due to it's very high surface tension. It is still not considered 'safe' to do so as atomic amounts are absorbed through the skin... and I think it is an accumulative poison that drives you insane.... thus the 'mad hatters', who used to wear top hats that were lined with mercury (or a compound thereof)... they absorbed traces into their heads and went mad.

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The reason it stays in a ball on your hand and doesn't 'wet' your skin is due to it's very high surface tension. It is still not considered 'safe' to do so as atomic amounts are absorbed through the skin... and I think it is an accumulative poison that drives you insane.... thus the 'mad hatters', who used to wear top hats that were lined with mercury (or a compound thereof)... they absorbed traces into their heads and went mad.

The phrase 'mad as a hatter' does not refer to folks who wore the hats, rather it refers to the folks who made the hats and were repeatedly exposed to mercury vapors.

...People who worked in these hat factories were exposed daily to trace amounts of the metal, which accumulated within their bodies over time, causing some workers to develop dementia caused by mercury poisoning (called mad hatter syndrome). ...

Edited by Acme
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The reason it stays in a ball on your hand and doesn't 'wet' your skin is due to it's very high surface tension. It is still not considered 'safe' to do so as atomic amounts are absorbed through the skin... and I think it is an accumulative poison that drives you insane.... thus the 'mad hatters', who used to wear top hats that were lined with mercury (or a compound thereof)... they absorbed traces into their heads and went mad.

The Hatters were milliners who made hats rather than those who simply wore them. I believe mercury, or more likely a compound of mercury was used in the manufacture of felt (to smooth and correctly texture) - and those that did this were exposed to toxic amounts. Jewellers were also in danger as they used, iirc, mercury in soldering and for creating weird amalgams for gilding

x-posted with acme

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The compound was mercury nitrate. The wearers were at risk as well, particularly if they habitually wore them.

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The compound was mercury nitrate. The wearers were at risk as well, particularly if they habitually wore them.

Do you have a reference to support your assertion that wearers suffered from mercury poisoning? I would be interested as I find only reference to makers. (see my link above to mad hatter syndrome.)
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The hat wearers definately went mad... The Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland is mad because of his hat... he is a wearer not a maker.

Q: From which writer does mercury come from?

A: HG Wells.

I don't have a reference Acme (apart from Alice)... it is what we were taught at school... I will look into it... although short of searching the internet I'm sure whrere else to look.

Yea - some places it suggests just the Hatters... others seem it could be the wearers too... I would imagine it was mainly the HAtters and then the odd fop who wore his hat too often. I will look into it more when I get home from work - I am supposed to be replying to someone else in another thread too, but haven't got round to that for a couple of weeks, so I'm not sure when I'll get round to it - if you find anything definitive before me then let us know!

Edited by DrP
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The hat wearers definately went mad... The Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland is mad because of his hat... he is a wearer not a maker.

...

I don't have a reference Acme (apart from Alice)... it is what we were taught at school... I will look into it... although short of searching the internet I'm sure whrere else to look. ...

If you read the reference I gave to mad hatter syndrome you will find that the Wonderland reference is likely not in regard to mercury.

... Although the expression "mad as a hatter" was associated with the syndrome,[21] the origin of the phrase is uncertain. Lewis Carroll's iconic Mad Hatter character in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland displays markedly eccentric behavior, which includes taking a bite out of a teacup.[22] While Carroll would have been familiar with the phenomenon of dementia among hatters, it is thought that the literary character was directly inspired by Theophilus Carter, an eccentric furniture dealer who did not show signs of mercury poisoning.[2] ...

Also if you read my references you will see it was not skin contact but breathing the mercury vapors that facilitated the poisoning.

...Especially in the 19th century, inorganic mercury in the form of mercuric nitrate was commonly used in the production of felt for hats.[1] During a process called carroting, in which furs from small animals such as rabbits, hares or beavers were separated from their skins and matted together, an orange-colored solution containing mercuric nitrate was used as a smoothing agent. The resulting felt was then repeatedly shaped into large cones, shrunk in boiling water and dried.[2] In treated felts, a slow reaction released volatile free mercury.[3] Hatters (or milliners) who came into contact with vapours from the impregnated felt often worked in confined areas.[4] ...

Even if the vapors continued to be emitted from hats after manufacture, the wearer would not be in a confined space. Edited by Acme
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The hat wearers definately went mad... The Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland is mad because of his hat... he is a wearer not a maker.

Q: From which writer does mercury come from?

A: HG Wells.

I don't have a reference Acme (apart from Alice)... it is what we were taught at school... I will look into it... although short of searching the internet I'm sure whrere else to look.

Yea - some places it suggests just the Hatters... others seem it could be the wearers too... I would imagine it was mainly the HAtters and then the odd fop who wore his hat too often. I will look into it more when I get home from work - I am supposed to be replying to someone else in another thread too, but haven't got round to that for a couple of weeks, so I'm not sure when I'll get round to it - if you find anything definitive before me then let us know!

I have always assumed that "10/6 this style" meant he was wearing one of his own hats which was for sale

"'In that direction,' the Cat said, waving its right paw round, 'lives a Hatter: and in that direction,' waving the other paw, 'lives a March Hare. Visit either you like: they're both mad."

Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carrol. Chapter 6

That would suggest to me - regardless of wikipedia - that the Character was intended to be a Hatter, a maker of hats, not someone who is merely as mad as a Hatter. He is never referred to as the Mad Hatter but as a Hatter who is also mad.

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I think you are right imat... if he is a Hatter then he must be a maker of hats... and of course, the price tag gives it away too.

Acme - not sure you'd need the confined space as it is in the hat and can be absorbed. Again, I have no reference, but have always believed it was absorbed through the skin on the head... This could be yet another one of those cases where what they taught you at school was a load of cobblers. lol.

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...

Aside from safety concerns - which was the original area of the comment - How easy would it be to "put my hand in a beaker of mercury" and what would the sensation be like?

iirc Mercury is denser than almost every other liquid at rtp, it flows quickly but beads together - so would it be like heavy, and unyielding treacle? Dense and strange custard? Difficult to tell the difference from a beaker of water?

Back in my school days we had a flask of mercury in the chem lab and a couple of us stuck our fingers into a beaker of it. It felt cool, offered a greater resistance than water and did not feel wet. Weeee suffered no illlll fects assssss fr bosh oOUVUV L V BER.

I think you are right imat... if he is a Hatter then he must be a maker of hats... and of course, the price tag gives it away too.

Acme - not sure you'd need the confined space as it is in the hat and can be absorbed. Again, I have no reference, but have always believed it was absorbed through the skin on the head... This could be yet another one of those cases where what they taught you at school was a load of cobblers. lol.

Cobbers it is. The article from the British Medical Journal that I added the link to calls it the 'Bellman's fallacy'. The entire article is worth reading and -if it matters to you- it is short. This article: >> Did the Mad Hatter have mercury poisoning? Edited by Acme
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Back in my school days we had a flask of mercury in the chem lab and a couple of us stuck our fingers into a beaker of it. It felt cool, offered a greater resistance than water and did not feel wet. Weeee suffered no illlll fects assssss fr bosh oOUVUV L V BER.

...

Thanks Acme, that's what I wanted to know - what the sensation would be; not the bit about you being mad, I already ...

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Thanks Acme, that's what I wanted to know - what the sensation would be; not the bit about you being mad, I already ...

Drifting again, I went looking for the original drawings of Alice in Wonderland and found this image in the public domain according to the poster at Flickr. Anyway, after reading the article from the British Medical Journal I have a different take on the tag significance than what you earlier gave. To whit, because the hatter is mad/eccentric, he simply did not remove the tag after he bought the hat.

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Drifting again, I went looking for the original drawings of Alice in Wonderland and found this image in the public domain according to the poster at Flickr. Anyway, after reading the article from the British Medical Journal I have a different take on the tag significance than what you earlier gave. To whit, because the hatter is mad/eccentric, he simply did not remove the tag after he bought the hat.

Erm.., the thing you can tell about a hatter is that he makes hats. That's why he's called a hatter.

hatter
ˈhatə/
noun
1. a person who makes and sells hats.
Anyway, the single biggest risk from putting your hand in mercury is probably inhalation f the vapour while you are messing about with it.
If you put your hand in a bucket of water, you don't normally notice the pressure. if, you wear a rubber glove you can feel the effect of the water . My guess is that's what mercury would feel like.
Edited by John Cuthber
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Erm.., the thing you can tell about a hatter is that he makes hats. That's why he's called a hatter.

hatter

ˈhatə/

noun

•

a person who makes and sells hats.

Yes well, what can you tell about nutters? That they make nuts? Think as in 'she's a nutter'. Carroll used hatter in the same way because 'hatter' could also refer at the time he was writing to someone who was nuts just as we now use 'mad as a hatter'. The Hatter was not nuts because he made hats, rather Carroll named the character as he did because the character was nuts. That Carroll had John Tenniel draw Hatter with a top hat is an example of a stylistic device; a visual pun as it were. The hat tag -as I earlier alluded- is a stand in for a feather or other hat decoration, again to illustrate the nutty nature of Hatter. Hatter's harlequinesque suit is another such visual device meant to convey nuttiness.

Illustrator

...Eight of Lewis Carrolls most important works are illustrated. He chose the artists to provide the illustrations and worked closely with them. He made sure that the pictures in his books matched his ideas and fitted his text. ...

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erm...

no

nutter
ˈnʌtə/
noun
BRITISHinformal
1. a mad or eccentric person.
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erm...

no

nutter

ˈnʌtə/

noun

BRITISH

No link I see, but erhm... yes.

1. 1.Crazy; mentally deranged.

By the same token, the March Hare is crazy and the character name is also a play on a phrase extant in Carrolls time, 'mad as a March hare'.

... "Mad as a March hare" is a common British English phrase, both now and in Carroll's time, and appears in John Heywood's collection of proverbs published in 1546. It is reported in The Annotated Alice by Martin Gardner that this proverb is based on popular belief about hares' behaviour at the beginning of the long breeding season, which lasts from February to September in Britain. Early in the season, unreceptive females often use their forelegs to repel overenthusiastic males.

"Chapter 6: In THAT direction,' the Cat said, waving its right paw round, lives a Hatter: and in THAT direction,' waving the other paw, lives a March Hare. Visit either you like: they're both mad.' source

It's also worth noting that the text of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland does not describe either characters' manner of dress; this is left to the illustrations. Carroll is always working at multiple levels and a shallow inspection of his work never satisfies.

PS Inasmuch as I answered the OP to the author's satisfaction, I beg indulgence is this OT discussion.

Edited by Acme
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You missed a bit.

"

1. Crazy; mentally deranged.

• n.noun
1. One whose occupation is the manufacture, selling, or repair of hats.

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One of my chores is cleaning the toilet. I wear gloves, and I can still feel the water against my skin when I use the gloves, and my hands feel wet, but they arn't. Couldn't you safely do the same thing with mercury?

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One of my chores is cleaning the toilet. I wear gloves, and I can still feel the water against my skin when I use the gloves, and my hands feel wet, but they arn't. Couldn't you safely do the same thing with mercury?

Sure. But Imatfaal was asking about how it would feel on his skin. As I attested, it does not feel wet and all indications [more-or-less] are that I surfed no no no ull forklenerns.

Edited by Acme
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Sure. But Imatfaal was asking about how it would feel on his skin. As I attested, it does not feel wet and all indications [more-or-less] are that I surfed no no no ull forklenerns.

He asked what the sensation would be like. I guess your right though. I've played with mercury though, and it does feel kind of wet if its cold.

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