Tuesday, August 24, 2010


One of those pieces of schoolboy/History Channel trivia that I seem to have retained is how the Hindenburg would never have blown up – or even been floating on highly inflammable hydrogen in the first place – was because the US had a monopoly on helium, and FDR wasn’t about to sell any to the Nazis for their high-profile, high-prestige Zeppelins. Thus, when our pal Wendy forward this piece of information, I was concerned. I’ve always been a big fan of airships, and entertained dreams of their return long before steampunk became chic. Not only are those dreams now seriously at risk, but we might even loose the sports stadium corporate blimps if the rest of the helium supply is pissed away filling Mylar party balloons.

“It is more commonly known as the gas that fills cheap party balloons and makes your voice squeak if you inhale it. But helium is actually a precious resource that is being squandered with Earth's reserves of it due to run out within 25 to 30 years, experts have warned. Earth’s resources of helium are being depleted at an astonishing rate, an effect which will spell disaster for hospitals which use it to cool MRI scanners. The world's biggest store of helium - the most commonly used inert gas - lies in a disused airfield in Amarillo, Texas, and is being sold off far too cheaply. But in 1996, the US government passed a law which states that the facility - the US National Helium Reserve - must be completely sold off by 2015 to recoup the price of installing it. This means that the helium, a non-renewable gas, is being quickly sold off at increasingly cheap prices, making it uneconomical to recycle. NASA uses the gas to clean its rockets of fuel while liquid helium is used to cool nuclear reactors and space telescopes. Nobel laureate Robert Richardson, a professor of physics at Cornell University in New York, told New Scientist magazine that once our helium reserves are gone there will be no way of replacing it.” (Click here for more)

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