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caldersmercuryfountainphotobydavideppstein Beautiful, deadly fountain pumps pure metallic mercury

For my money, it is one of the more perverse facts of the physical universe that elemental mercury, which is so beautiful and has so many amazing and useful properties, is also so dangerous.

This fountain, commissioned by the Spanish government from Alexander Calder for the 1937 World’s Fair, pumps quicksilver instead of water. Today the entire fountain, located at the Fundació Joan Miró in Barcelona, is enclosed in a glass box to prevent exposure of visitors to the toxic metal. Professor David Eppstein at UC-Irvine has a nice gallery of pictures, including the above.


Sean Michael Ragan

I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c’t – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.

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