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It is stated that mercury is a liquid at STP because the high relativistic mass of its valence electrons stabilizes their orbits and thus prevents the electrons from being shared. If so, liquid mercury would seem to have no "free" electrons; how, then, does it conduct electricity?

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  • $\begingroup$ Perhaps wherever stated that is, well, incorrect? Note that Pt, Au, Tl, Pb, Bi, etc. are all solid at room temperature. Various sources try to make a big deal about 'relativistic' electron orbitals without really backing things up. $\endgroup$ – Jon Custer Dec 2 '19 at 14:28
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    $\begingroup$ How is this off topic, or a homework question? This seems like a valid question someone would ask after reading some article or textbook. $\endgroup$ – Tomáš Zato - Reinstate Monica Dec 3 '19 at 11:44
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Keep in mind that "stabilizing" orbitals does not "prevent" electrons from being shared, only that they would be shared to a smaller extent. The very fact that mercury is a liquid and not a gas shows that there is some bonding in mercury, even if it is weaker than the bonding in most metals. So, it is conductive the same way other metals are, just less conductive. You can look up the conductivity of mercury, and you will find it to be lower than most metals.

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