The helium used in all of the above is fast running out – and it cannot be replenished.
Next time you nudge a clown sharply but surreptitiously on the arm for the wilful pleasure of watching all his helium filled balloons (along with his profits for the day) disappear in to the wild blue yonder spare a thought for the future generations for which this might not be one of life’s little pleasures.
Time is running out for our second lightest element, the noble gas is on its last gasp. As a resource which is strictly non renewable it seems we have been stacking it too high and selling it too cheap for too long – metaphorically speaking.
Reserves of the gas are going to be exhausted in the near future and the ramifications are – to put it mildly – a tad serious.
It cannot (repeat cannot) be made artificially (except in nuclear fusion and the helium that results as a by product of this process is far too tiny an amount to be a realistic alternative). Most of the reserves are on earth are the by product of natural gas extraction and the greatest concentrations have traditionally been in the South-west of the US.
And there lies the rub, unfortunately. Back in 1996 a little piece of legislation came in to being called the Helium Privatization Act. The helium had, it was deemed, to be sold off in order to pay for the government’s investment in its accumulation – which bizarrely enough is exactly what has been happening. Add to that the fact that the law of supply and demand is being ignored – an identical amount is sold every year, no matter what the global requirement and we have a balloon about to burst, as it were.
You may just made that noise that often comes out of Homer Simpson’s mouth, because you have just worked out that – at the moment and as a result of the act – helium is way, way too cheap and consumed lavishly, with little thought for the future.
Professor Robert Richardson who is a Professor of Physics at Cornell has recently co-chaired, with Charles G. Chip Groat an enquiry into where all the helium is going. They came to the same conclusion.
Their recommendations? Firstly to encourage recycling the helium used at the moment; NASA, such which uses it to clan rocket fuel tanks does not do this at the moment. Then, to increase the price of the gas by up to fifty times its current price so that it will no longer be seen as a commodity that can be squandered anymore.
That goes for party balloons too. Boys and girls, carpe diem!
Additional Image Credits
Girl flying using helioshere - Flickr User davosmith
Girl with balloons - Image Credit Flickr User Lil Larkie
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