Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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100m Hg

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For this new Olympic event, we need to use the stockpiles of pre- 1980's mercury. As anyone who was at school before that time will remember, this vintage mercury was non-toxic, to the extent that it was quite acceptable to play with the little blobs that whizzed around after you "accidentally" broke a thermometer.

We will need a 110m long, several-m wide, 1m deep trough filled with this benign quicksilver. The starting blocks are made of cast iron, floating at one end of the track and held in place by magnets beneath the trough. The finish line is row of steel ball-bearings, again floating on the surface and held in place by cunningly-arranged magnets.

The athletes are lowered into the trough at the starting line, where they stand, floating, with the mercury coming roughly up to their upper calves. No footwear is allowed. Athletes must remain standing for at least ten seconds before the start of the race, itself a major feat of balance, not unlike balancing a stick upright in deep water.

At the gun, the usual dash for the finish line begins. Not only must athletes find a way to gain a purchase on the mercury (though they may of course push off from the starting blocks), but they must also remain upright throughout the race - a near-impossible task. No part of the body above the navel may come into contact with the mercury at any time, until they cross the finishing line.

MaxwellBuchanan, Jan 25 2010

Mercury Polo Mercury_20Polo
Similar idea. [DrCurry, Jan 26 2010]

A pertinent article. http://www.rsc.org/...scripts/Mercury.asp
[rcarty, Jan 27 2010]

The picture the previous article promised. http://periodictabl...es/MercuryMiner.JPG
It's worth it to check out the site that hosts the picture to. [rcarty, Jan 27 2010]

Swimming in syrup is as fast as swimming in water http://news.bbc.co....EZxc738pE7s0BAl8srN
You might intuitively think that more viscous liquids are harder to get through, but it's not always true. [hippo, Jan 27 2010]

"What would it be like to navigate a rowboat through a lake of mercury?" http://what-if.xkcd.com/50/
[hippo, Feb 24 2015]

Galinstan http://www.rotometa...wmeltingpoint-2.htm
Galinstan is an alloy of GALlium, INdium, and STANnum (tin) that was devised to be a reasonably safe substitute for mercury. [Vernon, Feb 24 2015]

[link]






       What a juxtaposition: one of the greatest geniuses' of the HALFBAKERY just 'floated' (pun intended) an idea which is nonsensical - (I'm a chemist) - but funnier-than-hell!   

       [+] For making me laugh, but moreover ... making me think...
Wily Peyote, Jan 26 2010
  

       ...mad as a hatter...
hippo, Jan 26 2010
  

       I loved playing with mercury - I used to collect it from old refrigerators on the annual large appliance trash pickup day. I'd cut the thermometer line and just collect it in the palm of my hand. At one point, I had about a half-pint of it stored up in a mason jar.   

       Where can I find some of this pre-1980s mercury?
Freefall, Jan 26 2010
  

       The Seventies.
rcarty, Jan 26 2010
  

       Did you figure out how much say a 150lb man with normal shoes would sink? Wouldn't larger shoes really cut their time. I think modified cross country skis would REALLY cut the time. (+)
MisterQED, Jan 26 2010
  

       Well, mercury's about 13 times as dense as a European, so they'd sink in until about 13th of their body mass were submerged. I figure that's about up to the top of the calves, or maybe a little lower.   

       Yes, shoes or skis would help - this is why they're not allowed. Skis in particular would help greatly with balance.
MaxwellBuchanan, Jan 26 2010
  

       What if we used the modern hideously lethal mercury and the athletes (and audience) all wore those stylish hazardous-material spacesuits ?
batou, Jan 26 2010
  

       Metallic mercury isn't that toxic for short exposures(though beware the vapour); it's the organomecury complexes that are nasty.   

       In the 1950's you could get non-toxic Benzene, too. Not any more ... all the old skills are dying out.   

       It would be like trying to swim in the Dead Sea (i.e. completely impossible), but with knobs on. [+] for the imagery.
8th of 7, Jan 26 2010
  

       I'm trying to imagine circumstances where something similar would be feasible. All i can come up with right now is either gallium at body temperature or galinstan. Neither is dense enough, i suspect.
nineteenthly, Jan 26 2010
  

       I think you could probably spend a large proportion of your life wading around in mercury with no real ill effects.   

       If you're worried about mercury vapour, just float a thin layer of something on the top. Benzene would be a possibility.   

       Gallium is about 6 times as dense as European, so you'd be in it up to (I guess) the knees or a bit more. Galinstan is similar. I guess you might be able to dissolve something like uranium in galinstan or gallium to make a denser alloy, but mercury is really the man for the job.
MaxwellBuchanan, Jan 26 2010
  

       I used to try and catch it and eat it when my mom turned her back. Just because she always said, "oh my God, don't touch that, that's mercury, it's really dangerous". + in memory of good times rummaging on the floor.
blissmiss, Jan 26 2010
  

       // catch it and eat it //   

       Well, that clears up a few puzzling oddities ...   

       Do you get fries with that ... ?
8th of 7, Jan 26 2010
  

       European density: does this imply that other people are more or less dense? Or does it explain why someone might order "a large pint of heavy" or a "Bud light"??   

       By the way, I want to be the first to invent a technique for mercury paddling: face backwards and wiggle your toes.
Ling, Jan 27 2010
  

       //Gallium is about 6 times as dense as European//
Which one?
AbsintheWithoutLeave, Jan 27 2010
  

       [Blissmiss], the weird thing is that it's not as toxic swallowed as it is through skin contact or inhaled.   

       I presume that obese people would float better because they're less dense.
nineteenthly, Jan 27 2010
  

       ...next: The Hg Wave Machine Surfing Championships
hippo, Jan 27 2010
  

       Oooh! There is a good idea. What would waves in mercury be like? Speed? Amplitude?
MaxwellBuchanan, Jan 27 2010
  

       I don't know... - I'm wondering now what affects wave shape, size and speed - viscosity and density, probably, but I'm not sure...
hippo, Jan 27 2010
  

       ..and grabbity.
MaxwellBuchanan, Jan 27 2010
  

       It'd do some really interesting stuff if you got exactly the right amount of heavy water in it. On the other hand, it'd probably make you die if you overdid it. Earlier than the stuff with a "natural" level of deuterium would, anyway.
nineteenthly, Jan 27 2010
  

       The belly flop competition should be something to see...and if not, throw in a laser strobe display.   

       Interesting - from what height would it be safe to dive into Mercury (ignoring the fact that it's toxic for the moment)?
hippo, Jan 28 2010
  

       Not high ... because of its density it would be like diving onto sand.   

       // it's toxic //   

       You could wear a whole-body PVC suit...
8th of 7, Jan 28 2010
  

       Why is pre-1980's mercury non toxic? Whats the difference? The same for benzene.   

       Bigsleep, how did that compacitor explode? That makes me worry, I have a malfuntioning computer and possibly a video card, that might be overheating, and I'm now worried that the capacitors might explode! Don't ask about why they're malfunctioning or why I think they might be overheating. They're not working right, they're faulty, and no one can tell me why so I'm not doing anything about it. What were you doing at the time? Were you at work?
EvilPickels, Jan 28 2010
  

       [EvilPickels], obviously i can't help you with [bigsleep]'s capacitor, but i can tell you that last year the old PC blew up, which according to the children, who were in the room at the time, involved sparks, smoke and a bang. It happened about ten centimetres from the MDF at the back of the desk, a few weeks after i did several major upgrades involving a graphics card, extra RAM and a USB card. There was no actual house fire involved and they didn't need to use the fire extinguisher. I'm told it was spectacular but harmless. I assumed it was a capacitor in the power supply. Does that help?
nineteenthly, Jan 28 2010
  

       //Why is pre-1980's mercury non toxic? //
Well it obviously was, because we were allowed to play around with it in class, without having to wear full noddy-suits and respirators. I think it is because it was before Channel 4 first aired.

//from the MDF at the back of the desk//
You have MDF? You crazy, crazy fool! You must get out now. Now, I say.
Have a thought for the poor, poor children.
AbsintheWithoutLeave, Jan 28 2010
  

       It's a real problem. Dodgy cheap electrolytics can indeed explode after a few months or years of service, even if they're fitted to the PCB correctly. ("Can". Get it? Ba-doom TISH.)   

       A friend recently showed me a graphics card on which 3 out of the 4 large smoothing capacitors had exploded. I suggested that he should carefully desolder the fourth and keep it safe, so he could use it to play a practical joke on the next random pub-goer who wanted someone to fix his PC for him.
Wrongfellow, Jan 28 2010
  

       // unless they are wired up incorrectly during manufacture //   

       Or some numpty of a test engineer plugs 110V equipment into a 230V supply ....   

       Loud and spectacular (particularly the upwelling smoke effect) but harmless....
8th of 7, Jan 28 2010
  

       Sodding MDF sodding everywhere in this sodding place. Can't be burnt safely, unlike the rest of the furniture, so loads left over.
nineteenthly, Jan 29 2010
  

       [EvilP] - I agree with [bigsleep] - it's hard to make a capacitor explode unless you wire it up in reverse, which causes the production of gas inside the capacitor. In the days when school physics lessons were required to have an element of danger, I remember my physics teacher showing us how to do this with a really large (nearly as big as a coke can) capacitor. I'm sure there's an educational point in there as well: You don't forget lessons which involve dangerous explosions.
hippo, Jan 29 2010
  

       Yes, the children are always expecting things to explode for educational purposes, but after a while all the explosions tend to blur into one.   

       Capacitors explode when wired in reverse because otherwise they'd create a temporal paradox and break the laws of thermodynamics at the same time.
nineteenthly, Jan 29 2010
  

       This might be doable if you substitute ooblek for the mercury.. ;-)
Steamboat, Feb 22 2015
  

       Thinking about a mercury simulator... Quicksand consists of tiny sand particles suspended in water. I am not sure how they stay suspended. I suspect too, that a jungle explorer (or pilgrim - did I learn about some French abbey surrounded by quicksand?) would sink only to a certain point and then float, with upward parts of the body protruding. That is if they did not produce suction by flailing about the downward appendages.   

       Could one suspend comparably tiny particles of metal in oil and so make a superheavy quicksand simulator comparable to liquid mercury?? One could use gold, which is heavy and of low toxicity.
bungston, Feb 23 2015
  
      
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