Mercury is a heavy, silvery-white metallic element that remains a liquid at standard conditions. Over the centuries, researches have often referred to mercury as quicksilver. Though a poor conductor of heat, the element can conduct electricity, and as such, its modern applications include fluorescent lamps, electrodes, switches, and relays. However, for centuries, philosophers, physicians, and scientists used mercury for everything from medicine to clothing. Through these uses, they discovered many of the features of mercury, perhaps most notably, it's toxicity.
Ancient Chinese and Indian people were using mercury before 2000 BCE, and scholars found it in Egyptian tombs dating back to 1500 BCE. After its discovery, every culture began to form beliefs and myths about the supposedly mystical metal. One of these beliefs posited that mercury was one of the three principal substances of the earth, along with sulfur and salt. Alchemists thought mercury was the core of all metals. This lead to the theory that a person could create gold by combining different ingredients with mercury. Although this was false, scientists can now use nuclear reactions to synthesize gold without mercury, though the costs far outweigh the worth of the created metal.
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