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| Tuesday, March 20 2012 |

Pretentious whining for science.

Oh no! We're running out of Helium! And that's made a few pretentious eggheads very cross indeed.

Professor Robert Richardson, of Cornell University, New York, who won the Nobel physics prize in 1996 for his research on helium, argues that a helium party balloon should cost 75, to reflect the true value of the gas used. Yet you can buy enough helium to float 200 balloons for that price. "We are squandering an irreplaceable resource," he says.

Right. Much as how gold and platinum are of extreme use in semiconductor construction, and yet we squander it on silly things like engagement rings and watches.

Hey, Einstein: Helium costs something like $2 per cubic foot for a reason, and it's a very good reason: That's what the market says it should cost, given the realities of supply (relatively abundant) and demand (relatively small). Doesn't matter if someone wants to cool magnets with it, weld aluminum with it, or fill party balloons-- it's a commodity, and like any other, can be used by anyone to do anything they damn please. And if we run out, which is a pretty big if as with most The Sky Is Falling projections, everyone will need to find a different inert gas to do what they need to do.

It is not for bleating scientists to decide who is blessed enough to use Helium. It is for the people who extract and sell the stuff, and right now, they say it should be cheap enough for Little Johnnie to tote around a party balloon full of it.

Some people, those with a degree of rational sense, might also point out that the Large Hadron Collider sucked up something like 5,000 tons of liquid Helium-- the amount produced by the world in a year. Several tons of which they vented to the atmosphere when various parts of it went boom.

That's something like ~800,000-1.2M cubic feet of gas, or, enough to fill several million balloons, if you were wondering.

Now, who exactly is being irresponsible with Helium again?

If you want more Helium for science, I suggest you buy it like everyone else, instead of hand-wringing over effing party balloons.
posted by Mr. Lion @ 17:37 hours | comments (0)


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