Skip to comments.British academic: Ban party balloons (helium filled)
Posted on 12/13/2012 5:58:00 AM PST by chessplayer
The scarcity of helium is a really serious issue. I can imagine that in 50 years time our children will be saying, I cant believe they used such a precious material to fill balloons, said the doctor, Peter Wothers.
The non-renewable gas is a necessity in hospitals, where it is used to cool magnets in MRI scanners and mixed with oxygen to allow ill patients and newborn babies to breathe more easily.
Scientists have been unsuccessful in finding a sustainable way of making the gas artificially.
If we keep using it for non-essential things like party balloons, where were just letting it float off into space, we could be in for some serious problems in around 30 to 50 years time. The gas is hugely valuable.
The amount of helium found in various natural gas deposits varies from almost zero to as high as 4% by volume. Only about one-tenth of the working natural gas fields have economically viable concentrations of helium greater than 0.4%.
Helium can also be produced by liquefying air and separating the component gases. The production costs for this method are high, and the amount of helium contained in air is very low. Although this method is often used to produce other gases, like nitrogen and oxygen, it is rarely used to produce helium.
When the gas contains more than about 0.4% helium by volume, a cryogenic distillation method is often used in order to recover the helium content.
That requires extreme cryogenic temperatures. Very few wells have economic recoverable amounts.
If we do switch to hydrogen for ballons, the Macy Parade may get a lot more attention in news coverage, although live attendance may drop off in future years.
At the risk of getting completely off topic, that is one of those words I stumble over. I once wrote a book report on 'A Separate Peace' in which I misspelled 'separate' everytime. I now remember it by likening it to the word 'pare', where they both can mean to cut apart. I have no idea if they share a similar etymology, but it works for me.
A Plan for the Improvement of English Spelling
by Mark Twain
For example, in Year 1 that useless letter “c” would be dropped to be replased either by “k” or “s”, and likewise “x” would no longer be part of the alphabet. The only kase in which “c” would be retained would be the “ch” formation, which will be dealt with later. Year 2 might reform “w” spelling, so that “which” and “one” would take the same konsonant, wile Year 3 might well abolish “y” replasing it with “i” and Iear 4 might fiks the “g/j” anomali wonse and for all. Jenerally, then, the improvement would kontinue iear bai iear with Iear 5 doing awai with useless double konsonants, and Iears 6-12 or so modifaiing vowlz and the rimeining voist and unvoist konsonants. Bai Iear 15 or sou, it wud fainali bi posibl tu meik ius ov thi ridandant letez “c”, “y” and “x” — bai now jast a memori in the maindz ov ould doderez — tu riplais “ch”, “sh”, and “th” rispektivli. Fainali, xen, aafte sam 20 iers ov orxogrefkl riform, wi wud hev a lojikl, kohirnt speling in ius xrewawt xe Ingliy-spiking werld.
That was thirty five years ago.
“Kids; how many times have I said to keep the balloons AWAY from the candles on the birthday cake”
Did those guys from Monty Python have their homeland pegged or what?
Same type of moron that thinks we are using up all the water.
“This guy doesnt understand economics.”
It has nothing to do with economics. Helium is scarce ( on earth) and you can’t make it in the quantities that it is being wasted.
I agree with the author that Helium should not be frittered away. Helium is so rare that wasn’t even discovered on Earth until 1905 and for all its seeming abundance now, it is actually a scarce, irreplaceable strategic resource used in high-tech manufacturing.
re: “Did those guys from Monty Python have their homeland pegged or what?”
I missed that episode.
“The atmosphere is 0.00052% Helium... Thats a lot of Helium.”
And most of that, is in the far upper atmosphere called the heterosphere, about 100 kilometers above the surface. Not very accessible for a ground based separation facility.
And at that altitude that 0.00052% won’t last long as it escapes into space.
Laz, we’ll still have plenty of Party Buffoons. That should be enough for us.
Yes, it's so restricted that you have to go to Amazon and buy it for $35.
Dems would open the Strategic Helium Reserve when taxes they passed on helium make it cost so much that people start complaining.
When party balloons become too expensive, then gubmint can subsidize balloons for poor kid’s parties.
I think that's how they made the stuff at our physics department, in a cryostat. As loud as it was, I suppose it used a lot of electricity.
This was at a university and over 40 years ago, so things have probably changed since then.
I guess they used so much liquid Helium because they were a center of research into superconductivity; one of our professors and his grad students had developed the "BCS" theory.
They also had a very large cryo tank for liquid nitrogen, which was replenished by commercial deliveries from such vendors as Linde. This was used as the first stage coolant in their helium process, as well as by labs around the engineering campus.
About once a week, I would wheel about a 40 liter carboy (an overgrown dewar flask) a block or so Physics building loading dock where they had the cryogenics. My lab needed it for our high-vacuum pump cold traps.
We were buiding and operating various types of gas lasers and unconventional vacuum electron devices.
Next to last sentence ambiguous. By “it” I meant liquid Nitrogen.
Gold is now so valuable that they’re faking gold ingots with tungsten centers.
Maybe Helium will become so expensive that they’ll start faking it with hydrogen.
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