Not many years ago, mercury was used in medicine to treat syphilis. It was also used as an insecticide, and as a component of marine anti-fouling paints. In pigments and cosmetics. Even as a decorative and even mystical way, due to its appearance as from another world: it is not in vain a liquid metal, as if it were a fragment of the T-1000 of Terminator 2.
The mercury was even the signal that we were not going to class that day: if on the thermometer it marked fever, bed. (Who did not try to imitate the protagonist boy of ET, who puts his thermometer for a few seconds on a lit bulb so that his mother lets him stay at home ...? I did it, but I went to school: my thermometer marked more than 45 degrees of temperature, which clearly indicated that something smelled rotten in Denmark).
However, we are going to have to get used to the gradual disappearance of mercury in our daily lives.
Norway, for example, from January 1, 2008, has banned all imports and the manufacture of everything that would involve mercury, including the production of dental amalgams. The European Union has also banned the export of mercury. Forget, then, mercury thermometers and barometers (or keep them as relics).
Hugh Aldersey-Williams abounds in how mercury is going to become a persecuted element in his book The periodic table:
With mercury slowed in its origin, attention is now directed to the one already in circulation. An English study on cremations that escapes into the environment when the fillings of the deceased's teeth vaporize; the spectrum of our coexistence with metal, which once was easy, appears to us. Perhaps soon there are only very specialized applications.
However, 64% of babies are born with excess blood mercury.
If, despite this, you want to see live mercury, you can always visit the Great Zenith Telescope, in the mountains of British Columbia, very close to Vancouver: he obtains his images of the sky using a liquid mirror of mercury.
Mercury is poured over a fountain similar to a wok six meters in diameter. The fountain rotates at an imposing rate, forcing the surface of the mercury to form a more perfect paraboloid than could be obtained by solid glass or aluminum. The idea is already more than a century old, but only recently, while the metal provoked opprobrium everywhere, has it been possible to create a mechanism that works evenly enough to allow that mercury pond to produce sharp images.
Almost, almost like Alice through the mirror.