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    Re: Artificial horizon question
    From: Bill Morris
    Date: 2009 Apr 20, 22:56 -0700

    Robert wrote (of mercury):
    "I agree with an earlier poster about mercury being ideal for
    stars. That being said, the stuff is hard to find, is highly toxic and
    therefore not recommended."
    
    The hazard from occasional handling of metallic mercury is probably negligible 
    and small spills probably present no hazard from mercury vapour. It is poorly 
    absorbed through the skin and it is very unlikely to find its way into the 
    gut. Small amounts are efficiently excreted through the kidneys. An 
    experimental observation of evaporation of two drops of mercury at room 
    temperature by T. Winter in 2003 showed that the vapour levels were "small by 
    comparison" with OSHA permissible exposure levels. 
    
    Most compounds of mercury are very poorly soluble and present little hazard, 
    but the same cannot be said of some organic compounds, notably dimethyl 
    mercury, which is extremely toxic and can be absorbed through the skin as 
    well as the gut.
    
    I am not advocating handling metallic mercury with gay abandon - it is too 
    expensive and hard-to-find for that - but much more toxic substances can be 
    found under the kitchen benches of most homes. And yes, I have some (a 
    litre), and I handle it without afterwards having nightmares.
    
    Bill Morris
    Pukenui
    New Zealand
    
    
    
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