Mithril metallurgy

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Postby Unwin » Fri Feb 14, 2003 12:46 am

Searched through the threads and was kind of surprised that this does not seem to have been discussed.<BR><BR>What is mithril? Can't be stainless steel, could it? Would be too heavy I think. Besides it was mined out of the ground. Titanium? My impression was that it was dug out of the ground in pure form.<BR><BR>Any thoughts?
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Postby Earnil » Fri Feb 14, 2003 1:19 am

I think Titanium might be to heavy to be Mithril. I think Platinum might come closer to identifying Mithril as one of the periodic elements. Given the properties of Platinum and how valuable it is, it is probably the element of the periodic table that Mithril comes closest to.
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Postby JestersTears » Fri Feb 14, 2003 4:48 am

I don't know about the properties of platinum other than it's silvery and doesn't tarnish and is used in jewellry (and it's really expensive). Is it very strong - because clearly mithril is stronger than steel ?<BR><BR>I think the value issue on mithril is because it is so very useful as a metal (very light and strong armour) and becasue it's only found in one place - moria.
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Postby Earnil » Fri Feb 14, 2003 5:17 am

Well, I'm not sure if this is a good indication of hardness, but the melting point of steel is around 1370 degrees Celcius, while the melting point of Platinum is 1772 degrees celcius. <BR><BR>So if melting point is any indication of hardness then Platinum is harder than steel. And being lighter than steel, Platinum could possibly be the most likely to be Mithril.
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Postby scirocco » Fri Feb 14, 2003 7:32 am

No, platinum is soft and ductile. It needs to be alloyed to be usefully strong. Even copper is harder. If we assume mithril was a pure metal, extracted from an ore, and not alloyed, then platinum would not exactly be high on the list of candidates to be mithril.<BR><BR>And as for titanium being too heavy to be mithril, well, it's about half the weight of steel for the same strength, so is a good candidate. It has all the right properties, and it even took a long time to find the right process to extract it!
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Postby daesul » Fri Feb 14, 2003 7:41 am

Platinum is softer than iron on the Moh scale. This is a scale that rates the hardness of a material based on its ability to scratch another. It ranges from 1 to 10. Diamond, for instance, is a 10 on the Moh scale. It is logarithmic, so an 8 is ten times harder than a 7. Platinum rates 3.5 on the Moh scale while iron rates a 4. I just did some further searching, and it looks like steel is a 5 on the Moh scale. So platinum isn't a good real-world equivalent for mithril in that sense.
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Postby Almacundo/*Auirandos » Fri Feb 14, 2003 10:03 am

Hmmm...I know that this has been discussed elsewhere, but whether it had it's own thread I'm unsure. Darn that the usual Search function is down!<BR><BR>I believe we decided that a Primary World identity for <i>mithril</i> was inconclusive.<BR><BR>I believe that some alloys occur naturally in ore-bearing rock (if I recall correctly, <i>electrum</i> is a naturally occuring alloy of gold and silver) so don't rule out an alloy off-the-bat.
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Postby Melthavron » Sat Feb 15, 2003 1:23 am

Platinum is much too dense (density = 21.45 g/cm3; iron is 7.86 g/cm3; titanium is 4.50 g/cm3). Remember that Frodo's mithril shirt was so light that "You hardly feel any weight when you put it on." (Bilbo). If it had been platinum he wouldn't have been able to stand up, let alone run in it! Tolkien also calls it truesilver, but it canot be related to silver as that is also too dense (10.5 g/cm3). Titanium is closest in density, but it is grey, not shining silver.<BR><BR>I think we have to accept that mithril cannot be related to modern known metals.
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Postby Almacundo/*Auirandos » Sat Feb 15, 2003 1:16 pm

In doing some searching, I was interested to discovery that almost all native metals are on the soft side. Iron and platinum are the two hardest among common metals, in fact.<BR><BR>This indicates to me that we should be looking for alloys, preferably those that occur naturally in the PW, but we can, if forced to it, discover them naturally in ME.<BR><BR>A knife (and presumably a sword) has a Mohs hardness of about 6-6.5, so whatever we come up with must be harder than that.<BR><BR>Among minerals, hardness tends to be found in oxides and anhydrous silicates.<BR><BR>One interesting ingredient for our alloy might include cobalt (the name means 'goblin' in German), which is the only metal found in a vitamin (B-12). Other metals for consideration should include palladium, osmium, rhodium, indium, iridium, <b>selenium</b>, ruthenium, antimony, nickel, chromium, iron, arsenic, copper, lead, and sulfur. These all occur in minerals that are hard with metallic lustre described as grey, silver/y, steel, white, and/or bright. Unfortunately many of them seem to be brittle. Whether there would be comparable characterists in metallic alloys as in mineral compounds, I have no way of knowing.<BR><BR>Too bad none of us know a metallurgist!
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Postby Melthavron » Sat Feb 15, 2003 3:53 pm

<i>One interesting ingredient for our alloy might include cobalt (the name means 'goblin' in German), which is the only metal found in a vitamin (B-12). Other metals for consideration should include palladium, osmium, rhodium, indium, iridium, selenium, ruthenium, antimony, nickel, chromium, iron, arsenic, copper, lead, and sulfur. These all occur in minerals that are hard with metallic lustre described as grey, silvery, steel, white, and/or bright.</i><BR><BR>Of these, selenium, arsenic and sulfur are not metals and most of the others (except iron) are either too dense or too soft. Mithril was mined in Moria, so it must be an elemental metal, as you don't get ores of alloys. Alloys are mixtures of metals with very specific compositions. Minerals are rocks containing a pure compound and ores are minerals which contain a metal.<BR><BR>There is a lot more to sword making than hardness. The following comes from the book, THE JAPANESE SWORD, by Kanzan Sato.<BR><BR><b>The uniqueness of the Japanese sword lies in the technical innovations devised by the Japanese in an effort to resolve the three conflicting practical requirements of a sword: unbreakability, rigidity, and cutting power. Unbreakability implies a soft but tough metal, such as iron, which will not snap with a sudden blow, while rigidity and cutting power are best achieved by the use of hard steel. The Japanese have combined these features in ways which have given their swords a very distinctive character.<BR><BR>First of all, most Japanese blades are made up of two different metals: a soft and durable iron core is enveloped in a hard outer skin of steel which has been forged and reforged many times in order to produce a complex and close-knit crystalline structure. Secondly, the cross-section, widening from the back to a ridge on both sides, then narrowing to a very acute angle at the edge, combines the virtues of thickness for strength and thinness for cutting power. Third and most important of all, a highly tempered edge is formed by covering the rest of the blade with a special heat-resistant clay and heating and quenching only the part left exposed. The result is a steel which is even harder then the rest of the outer skin and can take a razor-sharp edge.</b><BR><BR>I don't think mithril would be suitable for a sword blade, although it was obviously hard enough for a mail shirt. I repeat: we cannot find mithril by looking at modern elements.
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Postby Aragorn,_son_of_Arathorn » Sat Feb 15, 2003 4:13 pm

Perhaps mithril in its role as armor IS some manner of alloy. For instance, when you speak of a gold ring, you say just that, a gold ring, not a "gold with some nickel in it ring" or "gold alloy ring". Granted, its a 24k or an 18k, but perhaps there is "24k mithril" or "18k mithril"? And the mail shirt is an alloy?
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Postby Melthavron » Sun Feb 16, 2003 2:15 am

<i>Perhaps mithril in its role as armor IS some manner of alloy. For instance, when you speak of a gold ring, you say just that, a gold ring, not a "gold with some nickel in it ring" or "gold alloy ring".</i><BR><BR>"Gold" in jewellery is an alloy of gold and copper; 24 carat gold is pure gold, but is too soft as the atoms of gold slide over one another. Copper atoms interrupt the rows of gold as they are a different size, so the rows cannot slide. The description 18 carat gold means it contains 18/24 gold by mass. The trade calls it "gold" rather than alloy because it sounds more expensive (partners prefer gold to alloy!). Steel is an alloy of iron and carbon, with small amounts of other metals added to give specific properties (e.g. chromium for corrosion resistance, tungsten for hardness, molybdenum for resilience).<BR><BR>If mithril was an alloy of metals that we know, we would be using it, as metallurgists have tried virtually every combibnation at some time or other. Mithril has properties that none of our metals or alloys has. Just as Middle Earth has "magical" powers that we do not have, so it had this "magical" metal called mithril which we do not have.<BR><BR>(Beats head against brick wall <img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-happy.gif"border=0><img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-happy.gif"border=0><img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-happy.gif"border=0>)
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Postby Shipwright*s_Apprentice » Sun Feb 16, 2003 6:03 am

The Periodic Table of the Elements has taken some of the mystery out of the world, hasn't it? My chemistry knowledge is rusty, but if I recall correctly, all the metals are grouped in one area of the Periodic Table. Arranging the elements in a table by atomic weight means that the atomic composition of any element in a 'gap' in the table can be predicted. All the spaces for stable elements have already been filled in. The elements in the remaining 'gaps' would be radioactive elements with unstable nuclei, and would quickly decay into a more stable element.<BR><BR>If I understand correctly, this means that discovery of an unknown metal is impossible, not only on our planet, but in our universe.<BR><BR>If mithril was a compound of known elements, it seems we should have discovered it by now. But this doesn't limit the human imagination.<BR><BR>Someone correct me if any of this is wrong. Unlike the swords and armor of Middle Earth, my chemistry knowledge becomes rusty if it lies unused for decades. <img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-happy.gif"border=0><BR><BR>P.S. As Melthavron mentioned, the making of Japanese swords is a fascinating subject. They are not only scientifically but also artistically interesting.
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Postby Melthavron » Sun Feb 16, 2003 11:00 am

<i>The Periodic Table of the Elements has taken some of the mystery out of the world, hasn't it? My chemistry knowledge is rusty, but if I recall correctly, all the metals are grouped in one area of the Periodic Table. Arranging the elements in a table by atomic weight means that the atomic composition of any element in a 'gap' in the table can be predicted. All the spaces for stable elements have already been filled in. The elements in the remaining 'gaps' would be radioactive elements with unstable nuclei, and would quickly decay into a more stable element.</i><BR><BR>There aren't any 'gaps' in the Periodic Table; all 92 naturally-occurring elements have been found, although new radioactive elements are being synthesised. Elements are in order of numbers of protons and the metals are towards the left hand side (beware: I've been teaching chemistry for over 30 years and you are in danger of getting a long lecture <img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-wink.gif"border=0><img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-happy.gif"border=0>).<BR>
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Postby Shipwright*s_Apprentice » Sun Feb 16, 2003 12:46 pm

<i>There aren't any 'gaps' in the Periodic Table; all 92 naturally-occurring elements have been found, although new radioactive elements are being synthesised.</i><BR><BR>I think that's what I was trying to say: <i>All the spaces for stable elements have already been filled in.</i> (Are you this hard on your students? Have mercy!<img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-wink.gif"border=0><img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-happy.gif"border=0>)<BR><BR>My point being that there is no place left for mithril. Would you agree?<BR><BR>And the wider point, IMO, is that there is no limit to what can be smelted in the fires of the human imagination. When Gimli talks about mithril, I <i>believe</i> in it.<BR>
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Postby Aragorn,_son_of_Arathorn » Sun Feb 16, 2003 1:29 pm

Well, I think we can say "Put this one down to Middle Earth magic". I currently am in a Chem. clas, and my Chem. teacher is a big JRRT fan as well. Perhaps Ill ask her...
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Postby Unwin » Sun Feb 16, 2003 6:38 pm

Was trying to look throught the books to see whether my impression that mithril was dug pure out of the ground or underwent other processing. Can't seem to find any mention of it.<BR><BR>If it was a naturally occurring alloy with a very high-strength to weight ratio and being corrosion-proof too. Then it must be very valuable indeed. Since it could be made into mail, this means that it must have been fairly malleable too. Brittleness unfortunately usually accompanies hardness. Such that people resort to case hardening after processing.<BR><BR>Question: why did they not make mithril swords too? Too expensive? Not stiff enough? Maybe this is the clue? It was good for armor and jewelry but not swords?<BR><BR>Wonderful stuff, mithril!
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Postby -Rómestámo- » Mon Feb 17, 2003 12:56 am

Theoretically at least, there may be stable transuranic elements and this could explain Mithril. Possible stable (non-radioactive) compounds are predicted, most notably a nuclide with mass 306 and atomic number 126. It arises from the number 126 of protons plus the other magic number 180 of neutrons. See <UL> Hora H, Miley GH; Czech. J. Phys. 48 (1998) 1111.<BR>"New magic numbers from low energy nuclear transmutations predict element (306)X(126) for compound reactions".<BR>** Theory, transmutation, res+<BR><BR>Hora, who has previously published on his magic numbers idea, here teams up with George Miley on the same subject. The magic numbers sequence starts with 2, 8, 20, 28, 50, 82 and 126 and has been predicted to continue with 180, 246, 324 "etc". This paper shows that these new numbers are related to the predicted stable transuranic elements beyond Z=126. A recent experiment has enabled the<BR>derivation of the number 180 and this is consistent with the hypothesis. A nuclide with mass 306 and atomic number 126 is very probable. It arises from the number 126 of protons plus the other magic number 180 of neutrons.</UL> <BR>"Magic numbers" denote the number of particles that bestow exceptional stability on the particle and exist for electrons, neutrons and protons (for example, the Noble gases have the 'magic numbers' of electrons). However stable compounds with 'magic numbers' of Protons where Z exceeds 82 have yet to be found in nature (and may not be metallic in any case).
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Postby Melthavron » Mon Feb 17, 2003 4:30 am

<b>Shipwright*s_Apprentice</b> <BR><BR><i>I think that's what I was trying to say: All the spaces for stable elements have already been filled in. (Are you this hard on your students? Have mercy!)</i><BR><BR>Of course I am <img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-happy.gif"border=0>! I'm trying to teach the little b*ggers to use exact terminology so they can pass their exams <img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-wink.gif"border=0>)<BR><BR><b>-Rómestámo-</b><BR><BR><i>Theoretically at least, there may be stable transuranic elements and this could explain Mithril. Possible stable (non-radioactive) compounds are predicted, most notably a nuclide with mass 306 and atomic no. 126. It arises from the no. 126 of protons plus the other magic no. 180 of neutrons.</i><BR><BR>There are two sorts of stability: nuclear stability (i.e. non-radioactive) and chemical stability (i.e. unreactive). Chemical stability is associated with electrons and occurs when electron orbitals are full. Element 126 would have a partially full 5g orbital and so (although possibly non-radioactive) would be chemically reactive. It would probably be metallic, although having a mass no. of 306, it would almost certainly be of high density and therefore would not be mithril.<BR><BR>(By the way, congratulations to the Aussies on the soccer and rugby league results last week <img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-sad.gif"border=0> . Respect to all concerned. <img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-smile.gif"border=0>)
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Postby daesul » Mon Feb 17, 2003 5:14 am

Ithildin was made from mithril and had the curious property of mirroring only starlight and moonlight. If any of our metals can do that, I must have missed it. I have no idea what was in ithildin besides mithril, but I get the impression it is an alloy (of mithril and whatever). Would that mean mithril has to be elemental? <BR><BR>Anyway, mithril was mined directly by the dwarves. In 'A Journey in the Dark' Gandalf says, <i>"For here alone in the world was found Moria-silver, or true-silver as some have called it: mithril is the Elvish name."</i> This implies to me that mithril was not an alloy created by the dwarves. If it were, then the element found only in Moria would be named and not the whole alloy. And later he says, <i>"The lodes lead away north towards Caradhras, and down to darkness."</i> So it was mined directly. However, I noticed something odd just a little further on in the text. It reads: <i>"It could be beaten like copper, and polished like glass; <b>and the Dwarves could make of it a metal</b>, light and yet harder than tempered steel."</i> That suggest that perhaps mithril was not itself a metal. So maybe the metal used in armor and jewelry <i>was</i> an alloy. I don't know. What do you all think?<BR>
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Postby -Rómestámo- » Mon Feb 17, 2003 7:38 am

In <i>Unfinished Tales</i>, JRRT notes on the <i>Elendilmir</i>:<UL><BR>(...) Next to it lay a treasure without price, long mourned as lost for ever: the Elendilmir itself, the white star of Elvish crystal upon a fillet of <i>mithril</i> <b>†</b> that had descended from Silmarien to Elendil, (...)<BR><BR><b>†</b> <i>For that metal was found in Númenor</i>. [Author's note.] - [CJRT notes ] In 'The Line of Elros' (p. 221) Tar-Telemmaitë, the fifteenth Ruler of Númenor, is said to have been called so (i.e. 'silver-handed') because of his love of silver, 'and he bade his servants to seek ever for <i>mithril</i>'. But Gandalf said that <i>mithril</i> was found in Moria 'alone in the world' (<i>The Fellowship of the Ring</i> II 4).</UL><BR>Númenor <i>was</i> long drowned when Gandalf said this, so perhaps he had ruled it out of his calculations. <BR><BR><BR>(OT: Another 'sword thread' of interest can be found at <a target=new href="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/messageview.cfm?catid=27&threadid=46476">What's up with Narsil?</a>.<BR>Thanks <b>Melthavron</b> for the sporting congratulations [<i>looks smug (as if it's all my own work <img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-wink.gif"border=0> )]</i> It helps to be born in the right place <img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-happy.gif"border=0> . However I'm still in mourning for Shane Warne's stupidity <img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-crying.gif"border=0> )
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Postby Melthavron » Mon Feb 17, 2003 12:49 pm

<b>daesul</b><BR><BR><i>Ithildin was made from mithril and had the curious property of mirroring only starlight and moonlight. If any of our metals can do that, I must have missed it. I have no idea what was in ithildin besides mithril, but I get the impression it is an alloy (of mithril and whatever). Would that mean mithril has to be elemental?</i><BR><BR>I would agree that mithril would be an element and ithilden an alloy.<BR><BR><i>"It could be beaten like copper, and polished like glass; and <b>the Dwarves could make of it a metal</b>, light and yet harder than tempered steel." That suggest that perhaps mithril was not itself a metal. So maybe the metal used in armor and jewelry was an alloy.</i><BR><BR>The properties of a metal depend not only on its composition, but also how it is treated, such as annealing. Metals contain imperfections in their crystal structures which cause them to become weaker at certain points. If the metal is heated to high temperature, hammered and cooled, these imperfections disappear and the item is much stronger (this is the skill of the blacksmith, swordsmith or armoursmith). I think that this is what Tolkien implies that the Dwarves were doing.<BR><BR><b>-Rómestámo-</b><BR><BR><i>I'm still in mourning for Shane Warne's stupidity</i><BR><BR>There are three possible explanations.<BR><BR>1. Diuretic to mask steroid use for performance enhancement. This is impossible as he can't improve on being best in the world.<BR><BR>2. Diuretic to mask steroid use for recovery from injury. This is a slight possibility as he has said that taking part in this World Cup is of great importance to him.<BR><BR>3. Diuretic taken due to stupidity because his Mum gave it to him to make him look fitter, in spite of the fact that EVERY sportsman in the WORLD knows that you don't take any medication without it being checked by the team doctor.<BR><BR>Hey, he's an Aussie - I'll accept stupidity as a reason <img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-devil.gif"border=0>. Seriously, the Competition will be diminished with him missing, but you should still win as you've so many world-class players.
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Postby wilko185 » Mon Feb 17, 2003 5:07 pm

Mithril is found in "lodes", which does not necessarily imply it is found as a metal rather than an ore, a lode can consist of either. But I prefer the idea of it being a noble metal. I'd agree with Melthavron that the Dwarves "making" a metal of mithril can just mean physical rather than chemical processing.<BR><BR>If we really wanted to stretch real-world science to encompass such a metal as mithril, any element unknown to us would be too heavy, but an allotrope of a known element might conceivably work. Allotropes are forms of elements that are structurally different on a molecular level (eg carbon is found as graphite, diamond, and the recently discovered buckminsterfullerene variation). I don't think it's totally impossible for titanium, say, to exist in some hitherto unknown structural form which has the required mechanical properties. It might require a high energy barrier of formation to explain why <i>we</i> haven't accessed it yet..<BR><BR>(Re Shane Warne... that's just the Aussies giving us all a chance, isn't it? <img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-wink.gif"border=0>)
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Postby Melthavron » Tue Feb 18, 2003 12:57 am

<i>If we really wanted to stretch real-world science to encompass such a metal as mithril, any element unknown to us would be too heavy, but an allotrope of a known element might conceivably work. Allotropes are forms of elements that are structurally different on a molecular level (eg carbon is found as graphite, diamond, and the recently discovered buckminsterfullerene variation).</i><BR><BR>Allotropes are of non-metals (carbon, sulfur), whose covalent bonds allow for different arrangements in space. Metallic bonding (rows of positive ions held together by a "sea" of delocalised electrons) does not allow allotropy.<BR><BR>Titanium, by the way, is found as its oxide. This has to be converted to its chloride, which is then reacted with sodium metal to give titanium metal. Sodium is extracted by electrolysis, so we can forget any idea of titanium being mithril.<BR><BR><i>(Re Shane Warne... that's just the Aussies giving us all a chance, isn't it?)</i><BR><BR>I think they'd have to send them all home! <img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-smile.gif"border=0>
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Postby Unwin » Tue Feb 18, 2003 6:39 pm

What a wonderfully geeky thread! <img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-smile.gif"border=0><BR><BR>Let's see... what do we have so far..<BR><BR>1. Mithril is made into armor (chain mail) and jewelry but no swords<BR>2. Mithril was made into a "metal" called ithildin <BR>3. Ithildin mirrors only moonlight and starlight.<BR>4. Mithril was found in "lodes"<BR>5. Mithril Properties: corrosion proof, light, strong and hard, malleable.<BR>6. Found only in Moria and before the Flood.. Numenor<BR><BR>Suggestions as to what it is:<BR><BR>1. an element<BR>2. an alloy<BR>3. an allotrope of an element<BR>4. something too magical for us to understand<BR><BR>In the interest of keeping the fun in this thread... Let's discard number 4.<BR><BR>I checked a materials science book and it says that iron can undergo an allotrophic transformation at 910C from body-centered-cubic to face-centered cubic. (Or did I get that backwards?) Do metals display allotrophy at room temperature?<BR><BR>Maybe the allotrope is our best bet? Perhaps a low-density allotrope of titanium or tungsten? Titanium dioxide is very hard so this can explain the surface hardness of the armor. Hmm…. how does this help explain ithildin then?<BR><BR>Moonlight would be reflected (polarized?) sunlight… Starlight? … maybe only certain kinds of stars resulting in different spectra?<BR><BR>Hmm…....<BR><BR>Maybe we're restricting ourselves to metals too much? <BR>
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Postby wilko185 » Tue Feb 18, 2003 9:51 pm

<i>Metallic bonding (rows of positive ions held together by a "sea" of delocalised electrons) does not allow allotropy.</i><BR><BR>Not strictly true - as Unwin points out, the rows can be stacked differently, as in alpha and gamma-iron, which constitutes a type of allotropy. Several metals exhibit similar allotropy (eg plutonium <a target=new href="http://www.lanl.gov/orgs/nmt/nmtdo/AQarchive/00winter/recent.html">apparently</a> has six thermal allotropes). <BR><BR>Titanium undergoes a similar thermal allotropy to iron. According to <a target=new href="http://www.njscuba.net/artifacts/matl_misc_metal.html">this page</a><OL>Titanium is a lustrous silver-white metal that exhibits allotropy; below about 880°C it has a hexagonal crystalline structure, but above that temperature it changes to a cubic crystalline structure.</OL> Admittedly this type of change in the metallic structure is unlikely to induce as profound a change in properties as that exhibited by non-metallic allotropes (or the metallic and covalent allotropes of tin, say). To get the type of properties we want for mithril, we'd probably have to indulge in some Star Trek-esque babbling about additional long-range ordering of microcrystals, or something <img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-wink.gif"border=0>.<BR><BR>Non-electrolytic extraction of titanium is a big problem (ditto the even-lighter magnesium btw) .... unless we just assume Aulë caused the metal to be found in the mountains where the Dwarf-fathers awoke in its unbound state <img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-happy.gif"border=0> (in its exotic "kinetically inert allotrope", perhaps <img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-wink.gif"border=0>).
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Postby Melthavron » Thu Feb 20, 2003 10:28 am

That'll teach me to reply without thinking!<img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-happy.gif"border=0><BR><BR>So we can assume it's not titanium unless Frodo was wearing it at above 880°C (asbestos vest? <img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-wink.gif"border=0>). It certainly wasn't plutonium (unless that is why his sword was glowing!).<BR><BR>I prefer the Aulë explanation: I don't suppose he even thought about it for <i>the delight and pride of Aulë is in the deed of making, and in the thing made, and neither in possession nor in his own mastery; wherefore he gives and hoards not, and is free from care, passing ever on to some new work.</i> (Silmarillion). As far as the Dwarves were concerned, it worked and that was all there was to it.<BR><BR>Anyway, Tolkien was a linguist, not a metallurgist. I sometimes wonder what he would think if he could see us babbling away on threads like this! <img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-happy.gif"border=0>
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Postby Unwin » Thu Feb 20, 2003 6:23 pm

<i>I sometimes wonder what he would think if he could see us babbling away on threads like this!</i><BR><BR>Don't think of it as babbling! Think of it as meditation... or maybe brainstorming...<BR><BR>I'm sure that Tolkien intended for mithril to be magical but heck... it'a more fun this way.<BR><BR>How about this.... Mithril is naturally occurring carbon fiber which gives it its exceptional strength and light weight. The dwarves have found a way to make them into 2.5 mm rods, cut them and join them into rings and form chain mail. They case-harden the mail later forming a thin diamond film on the surface, making it wxceptionally hard and therefore excellent armor.<BR><BR>Ithildin is produced the same way. By controlling the thickness of the diamond layer, the can change the transmissivity so that it reflects only polarized sunlight or certain wavelengths (starlight).<BR><BR>Then again... it may be naturally occurring Kevlar.<BR><BR>:0 <img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-smile.gif"border=0>
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Postby Melthavron » Fri Feb 21, 2003 1:01 am

<i>Mithril is naturally occurring carbon fiber which gives it its exceptional strength and light weight. The dwarves have found a way to make them into 2.5 mm rods, cut them and join them into rings and form chain mail. They case-harden the mail later forming a thin diamond film on the surface, making it wxceptionally hard and therefore excellent armor.</i><BR><BR>Hmmm. If we are going to use "real" materials, we need to use "real" methods to extract and work them. Dwarves did not use magic, so how are they going to do this using essentially Dark Age technology <img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-confused.gif"border=0>?<BR>
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Postby -Rómestámo- » Fri Feb 21, 2003 7:15 am

We can shoot this line of speculation down straight away. Mithril is clearly metallic; apart from the earlier references to <i>It could be beaten like copper</i> (so it is both malleable and ductile), the characteristics the mithril corselet displays are difficult to explain unless it was a metal: <UL><BR>Gently he stripped off Frodo's old jacket and worn tunic, and gave a gasp of wonder. Then he laughed. The silver corslet shimmered before his eyes like the light upon a rippling sea. Carefully he took it off and held it up, and the gems on it glittered like stars. and the sound of the shaken rings was like the tinkle of rain in a pool.<BR><BR><i>Lothlórien</i><BR></UL><BR>Neither kevlar nor carbon fibre tinkle <img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-happy.gif"border=0> .
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