Friday, March 21, 2008

Helium

Maybe I'm just out of the loop, but I was recently made aware of the looming helium shortage when a prof. at R1U commented on the situation in the university newsletter (though I may be the only one who reads it). A quick google search revealed news stories dating back to 2001 that discussed the issue of helium depletion, though almost always couched in terms of party balloon shortages. I'm a little more concerned, personally, about the use of helium in medical and research laboratories, and I'm more than a little stricken by this unexpected evidence of our extreme impact on this planet. Here's an unquestionably significant change that no one will be able to argue was non-anthropogenic: we managed to rid our planet of an element! An ELEMENT!

Apparently this has been more news-worthy over the past few months, particularly in late 2007, which is probably why I finally caught on to the "hot topic." But it was a great opportunity for me to finally learn where helium comes from. I realized, I've never even wondered where helium comes from. Not surprisingly, it comes from Texas. I'll let an archived article from Wired fill in the details. From the variety of articles I read (with different publication dates, mind you) it seems our helium supplies will run out in eight to twenty-five years, so it looks like we won't have to wait long to see what the consequences of a helium-free planet (economy, etc.) will be. I'm fairly certain that whatever those consequences are, they will make me sad.

1 comment:

T said...

I just found out yesterday that there's also a shortage of bees. I'll admit, at first I was kind of happy about this as I don't really like the suckers. But then the overall impact of a bee shortage hit me (I do like getting flowers, after all, and eating fruit) and I was kind of stunned. But how did I miss this news?