Your Body Will Float on Mercury, and it Will Feel Weird

YouTuber and professional experimenter  CodyDon is no stranger to the element mercury. He’s made toilets that flush the stuff, and he’s even put his bare hand in mercury in order to describe how it feels on his skin. In his latest video, the really-not-risk-averse scientist has brought his heavy metal antics to yet another level by filling a tub with 640 pounds of mercury and standing in it. Or at least attempting to stand in it. Apparently standing on liquid is a skill you have to learn.

In the clip, CodyDon builds a plastic tub reinforced by concrete in order to hold six flasks of mercury. What’s initially a bit off-putting is trying to register how heavy small quantities of mercury are. The liquid metal is about 13 times as dense as water, which means that a 2 liter jug of mercury weighs more than 50 pounds.

Because of  Archimedes’ principle, which states that “the upward buoyant force that is exerted on a body immersed in a fluid, whether fully or partially submerged, is equal to the weight of the fluid that the body displaces,” density becomes the deciding factor when it comes to whether or not something will float in a liquid. And because we meat bags are much less dense than mercury — on average 1.062 g/cubic centimeter — we’re able to float in it. Although you can, of course, make yourself less buoyant by adding weight, or as CodyDon does in the video, using force to push down into the liquid.

CodyDon notes at the end of the video that the part of the experiment that really excited him was the idea of thinking about how the pressure of the liquid mercury beneath him was continuously changing. He notes that as he added more weight (pushed down), the pressure of the mercury would increase. If he took some weight off, the pressure of the mercury would force him back upward. Which is a sensation that, unlike sticking your bare foot in a tub of mercury, sounds like something that would be fun to experience.

What do you think about this human floating around in mercury? Would you ever try this? Give us your thoughts in the comments below!

Images: Cody’sLab

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