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    Re: Arificial Horizons and Tea
    From: Phil Guerra
    Date: 2003 Jul 11, 17:09 -0500

    I found your email interesting, but somewhat confusing.  Here's a link to an
    article dealing with the hazards of mercury.  I'm not a scientist, so I
    can't comment on the real danger, only I do believe that you and your mates
    are as lucky as me and mine, having survived such behaviour that commonplace
    in our schools.  I'm just glad we didn't have access to plutonium, who knows
    what trouble we could have gotten into with the same mindless antics.
    Anyway, enjoy the article.
    ----- Original Message -----
    From: "George Huxtable" 
    Sent: Friday, July 11, 2003 2:05 PM
    Subject: Re: Arificial Horizons and Tea
    > About Mercury artificial horizons, John Kabel wrote-
    > >Mercury!! Were they kidding??  Bad enough in a barometer or
    > >thermometer, where the glass is about as hazardous, but very bad in the
    > >open.  I hope nobody is still using it, in this group.  A license to
    > >die young.
    > ===============================
    > Can anyone supply any information as to the real level of hazard that
    > be involved in using mercury in an artificial horizon outdoors?
    > I suspect that it may be less lethal than John Kabel implies.
    > I base this opinion on my childhood at school, where I sat for physics
    > classes at a laboratory bench. Every hollow and cranny in the wooden
    > surface of that bench would contain droplets of mercury. When the lesson
    > became boring, we would do our best to fish them out with a pencil, to
    > collect enough to coalesce into a blob that was big enough to flick at our
    > friends in the row in front.
    > Our reversing-switches would involve electrodes that dipped into open
    > of mercury, We would make barometers that dipped into similar open pools.
    > Later, at university, we found a similar environment. We would use mercury
    > in pint quantities for diffusion-pumps in high-vacuum systems.
    > I suspect many physics students from my generation, the world over, could
    > tell a similar story.
    > Were we risking our lives? It didn't seems so at the time. I haven't
    > collected mortality statistics. Were we risking brain damage? Perhaps
    > that's starting to show, now...
    > Now we have our teeth stuffed with amalgam. Does the amalgamation remove
    > the toxicity? I wonder.
    > Somehow I doubt that taking sextant altitudes by exposing for a short time
    > a small pool of mercury, out in the open, where any vapour could blow
    > presents a comparable hazard. But I am quite prepared to be convinced
    > otherwise, if any real evidence exists. Is John Kabel being over-alarmist
    > about the danger? Am I being over-casual?
    > In other respects, mercury must be the ideal artificial horizon. There's
    > room for a simple design in plastic for a shallow pool with a sealing lid,
    > from which the mercury would never need to be removed, with a rim intended
    > to trap any overspill, designed with a tripod base. This would be handier
    > than the equipment the old explorers had to handle, in which mercury had
    > be transferred between a tray and an iron storage vessel with a screw-cap.
    > But how available is mercury today? Are there regulations that prevent you
    > and me from acquiring enough mercury to do the job? Do we have to collect
    > antique barometers to do so?
    > I'm not convinced about the virtues of floating a solid mirror on a
    > disc-raft on liquid. The liquid and the solid would need to have a
    > repulsive surface tension between them to ensure blobs wouldn't gather up
    > the sides of the raft. That surface tension would require to be exactly
    > even around the edges of the disc or the raft would be unbalanced. How
    > would one prevent the raft from nearing the edges of the container, which
    > would unbalance the surface-tension forces or give rise to friction which
    > would constrain the self-levelling? There are serious problems here which
    > would need resolving.
    > George Huxtable.
    > ================================================================
    > contact George Huxtable by email at george@huxtable.u-net.com, by phone at
    > 01865 820222 (from outside UK, +44 1865 820222), or by mail at 1 Sandy
    > Lane, Southmoor, Abingdon, Oxon OX13 5HX, UK.
    > ================================================================

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