The Edmond Sun

Features

November 21, 2012

Slate: Macy's parade contributes to loss of helium supplies

For Americans, the third Thursday in November can mean lots of things, usually some combination of food, family, and football. But before all that, there's the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. The three-hour, 80-plus-year tradition starts at 9 a.m. and boasts 16 gigantic balloons. If you are ambitious and want to brave the cold on the night before, you can watch those balloons get inflated. In addition to seeing Kermit the Frog or Spider-Man, you'll also witness the squandering of the global supply of helium.

At projected rates of consumption, all the currently available helium on Earth will be depleted in about 40 years. While its best-known use may be filling balloons and making people who inhale it squeak like Mickey Mouse, the element's scientific uses are arguably more valuable. No other gas is as light without being combustible. Those properties, as well as its very low boiling point and high thermal conductivity, make it indispensable for aerospace engineering, deep-sea diving, and cryogenics. So, while a world with no more balloons is a sad specter, without liquefied helium we wouldn't be able to make superconducting magnets like those in MRIs.

The sorry state of our helium reserves can be traced to three key factors. Thanks to a 1996 act of Congress, the price of helium is artificially low, so there's little deterrence for overuse. There's also the fact that we have no idea how to artificially produce helium in any real, sustainable way. Finally, helium's unique properties make finding a viable substitute almost impossible.

The helium we use today is found in underground gas pockets, often associated with natural gas. Helium is abundant in the universe, but here on Earth it is more elusive; while there's a lot of helium in the atmosphere, it is very difficult to purify. It's really only when it is trapped underground that we can isolate it. This helium is largely formed as a by-product of decaying radioactive elements. The rate at which it is produced accounts for less than one-half of global demand, and most of it cannot be recovered efficiently.

Text Only
Features
  • Preparing for a fall home garden

    Gardening can be a year-around activity for those that have an appreciation for fresh and nutritious vegetables. Some of the best vegetables in Oklahoma are produced and harvested during the cooler weather of fall. Successful fall gardens, however, require some work in the summer growing season. Factors to be considered are location, soil preparation, crops to be grown and how/when to plant.  
    The major consideration for garden placement is sunlight. All vegetables require some sunlight; the most popular vegetables require full sun. “Full” sun means at least 8 hours of intense, direct exposure.

    July 24, 2014

  • Fall gardening season has arrived

    Even though the temperature is hot and there are still summer vacations on the calendar, it is time to start thinking about planting your fall garden.
    Most Oklahoma gardeners are still reaping the rewards of their spring gardens, said David Hillock, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension consumer horticulturist, but it is not too early to plan for fall gardening crops.

    July 23, 2014

  • Receive 10 free dogwood trees from Arbor Day Foundation

    Add color to your landscape year-round by joining the Arbor Day Foundation in August.

    July 23, 2014

  • Authorities update Simpson’s saga

    Investigators are attempting to locate the owner of a dog named Simpson to determine whether or not his injuries were due to an accident or man-made, an official said.
    On July 1, the Logan County Sheriff’s Office investigated reports of an injured dog near the intersection of Western and Simpson in south Logan County, Lt. Tom Kutay said. Officers responded and took several statements of a dog being found with injures to its back, Kutay said.

    July 22, 2014

  • Whataburger celebrates children’s superhero spirit with ‘Super-Duper’ event

    It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a Super Duper Celebration! In the heart of every child lives a superhero and on Thursday Whataburger restaurants will celebrate the superhero spirit in all of us with an evening of family fun from 5-7 p.m. at its location at 421 S. Broadway.
    Customers can spend quality time with their little heroes and treat them to a superhero-themed celebration of food, activities and giveaways. Children 12 and under dressed in a superhero costume will receive a free kid’s meal. There will be a Whataburger photo booth and Whataburger’s mascot, Whataguy, will also be present to join the fun.

    July 22, 2014

  • Shopping smarter for family necessities can help the environment

    There’s a growing trend among consumers to make choices reflecting the goals and values that matter to them most.  In fact, two out of five people say they’re more inspired to try a natural product that does something good for themselves, their family and the planet, according to a recent study conducted by Toluna for natural products brand Tom’s of Maine.

    July 21, 2014

  • Back to school lunch Build a better bag

    Brown bag lunches and back to school go hand in hand. As you’re gearing up for the start of a new school year, it’s the perfect time to stock the pantry with healthy sack lunch options and after school snacks, too.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Pets

    This is a list of animals that have been found and are at the Edmond Animal Shelter, at Interstate 35 and Covell in the Cross Timbers Municipal Complex. Call the shelter at 216-7615 for more information.

    July 21, 2014

  • Kids Cook Simple ways canned foods get children cooking

    When it comes to teaching children about healthy eating habits, there’s no better classroom than the kitchen.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Garden Vegetable Spring Rolls The Canebrake offers summer recipe for Garden Vegetable Spring Rolls

    The Canebrake, a destination hotel and spa in Wagoner, is offering the following recipe from its restaurant for Garden Vegetable Spring Rolls with Avocado Wasabi Puree.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo