(urth) Fuligin?

David Stockhoff dstockhoff at verizon.net
Wed Jul 16 16:39:46 PDT 2014

It's probably impractical. On the other hand, its "gimcrackery"
emphasizes the theatrical nature of the the role of executioner. It
might even be intended as much to frighten thieves and the gullible (as
it did once) as to aid in the swing.

Besides, when you first lift the sword from the horizontal, the mercury
would rush toward the hilt, bringing its center of gravity closer to the
body. I think the real benefit may be simply to make lifting it easier.
It could also assist in accuracy on the downswing, a notorious problem
for executioners. Think of it as a crude gyroscope.

Because Severian doesn't seem to be bothered by its effects when using
the sword in combat (for which is certainly was not intended), they may
be slight. But it could speed the blade just enough to make a stroke
look decisive, which as Severian suggests plays to the psychological
aspects of the job, i.e., the problem of the executioner not being up to
the job.

It's actually amazing that no one has tried to make one, at least that I
have heard of. I wonder what technical challenges would be involved.

On 7/16/2014 7:16 PM, Gerry Quinn wrote:
> On 16/07/2014 23:13, Marc Aramini wrote:
>> Would temp change the balance though? If mercury expanded or contracted.
> Not really, given that it has space to run around inside.  The thermal
> expansion would reduce the space available to it only slightly.
> In practice, I don't believe there would be any real benefit to making
> a sword this way anyway.  It sounds good (moving mercury adding to the
> force of the downstroke) but this would really only work if the sword
> started almost horizontal - and if it did, it's hard to see how it
> would accelerate enough to behead someone.  But if the sword rises
> before it falls, the mercury has to be lifted too, so it makes no net
> addition to the force of the blow.  A solid sword, permanently
> weighted at the end, would work just as well and probably better.
> - Gerry Quinn
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