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From: "Kevin J. Maroney" <kmaroney@crossover.com>
Subject: Re: (urth) Terminus est--another military procurement fiasco?
Date: Mon, 19 Oct 1998 12:48:45 

At 10:29 PM 10/18/98 -0700, Robert Borski [Sgt. Rock] wrote:
>I have my doubts about whether such a sword would really work, even if we
>ignore the structural problems of a hollow blade (it would either be weak or
>very thick, I think). As you swing the blade, there is little centrifugal
>force being exerted at the hilt, since it's moving slowly compared to the
>point. Thus, by the time the mercury gets to the tip end of the blade, your
>swing would likely have been completed (assuming the mercury gets that far
>at all). On the other hand, if we assume that the mercury gets there
>quickly, I think it would have the effect of increasing the effort required
>to make the swing, since you must now accelerate the mass of the mercury
>along with the rest of the blade.

Think about the stroke involved in beheading a prisoner. The sword is
raised overhead and brought down in a smooth circle. Gravity, not the
centrifugal effect, is what moves the quicksilver. As the sword passes the
point at which it is horizontal to the ground, the tip becomes much
heavier, and gravity brings the mercury into the tip. Thus, the lichtor can
raise the sword slowly and bring it down very quickly.

It would be worse in a swordfight than a standard sword, though, for all
the reasons you explained:

>In any case, having the balance of the blade shifting about during combat
>would be very undesirable. It would make the force required to move the
>blade unpredictable, as would be the momentum of the blade. In other words,
>you might not be able to stop the swing where you want it, or move the blade
>quickly enought to parry. The Sergeant prefers plain steel.

>So my answer to your question, Robert, is that it was military surplus. The
>army got rid of the thing as soon as it could, and sold it quite cheaply.

It's a ceremonial sword of office. Who other than the torturers would want it?

Wombat, a.k.a. Kevin Maroney kmaroney@crossover.com
Kitchen Staff Supervisor, New York Review of Science Fiction

*More Wolfe info & archive of this list at http://www.urth.net/urth/

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