Monday, February 28, 2011

Your kid's birthday is ruining my MRI

Today is a lesson about the Earth. And parades. And balloons.

I hope you never need an MRI, or want to see a rocket blast off…or need to breathe underwater, or see through a telescope, or need to cool off your nuclear reactor. Most importantly, I hope you never want another LCD screen TV again. Because if you do, you need helium.

What it took the earth 4.7 billion years to make, we’re depleting in 100 years thanks to parades, birthday parties and a short sighted American government policy in 1996 (called the "Helium Privatization Act of 1996"to sell off the planet’s largest helium reserve in Texas. Everything’s bigger in Texas? Yeah, everything except the world’s most important helium field.

In about 25 to 30 years, we’re out of floaty balloons pals. And we’re out of luck if we want valuable medical testing because MRI machines use helium as a coolant for their superconducting magnets...and NASA? Well, shut that little venture down completely. Helium is non-flammable so it’s pretty important in places like SPACE or tiny tubes where you’ve been put to see your insides, or in the tank attached to your back when you're trying to breathe underwater.

It’s a non-renewable resource made by the radioactive decay of “terrestrial rock”, or by processes that take place on the sun. Last time I checked, we didn't have any settlements there yet. There is no known way to make helium in any commercially viable manner. Isn't that crazy? Did you even know that about helium?

The next time you’re thinking you want to see a ginormous SpongeBob floating over 5th Avenue, or think you NEED some cheap helium balloons to celebrate turning five or 95, just don't need or want those things. It's not a necessity in life to see the Macy's parade (and I'm pretty sure the organizers of that parade are reading this and will heed my advice), or release balloons that eventually kill whales and sea turtles who think they're jellyfish (and that's an entirely different lesson). Remember that helium is going away forever.  FOREVER.

Ominous, huh?

Happy Birthday!

P.S. You know, just like everything else on this planet the hippy-dippy reduce, reuse, recycle missive applies to helium, but it's expensive.  If helium cost more based on its scarcity, recycling it would make financial sense because it can be used 100 times or more.  Once it's released into the air, it's gone forever dude. Betcha didn’t know that.

*And my picture today came from

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