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.

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Features
  • 1,000th baby group.jpg INTEGRIS welcomes 1,000th birth since opening in October 2011

    Being the father of a new baby boy is pretty exciting, but being the father of INTEGRIS Health Edmond’s 1,000th baby made it even more special.
    “When we got to the hospital, the night-shift nurse told us we were in a race with another couple who had gotten there at 7 a.m.,” said Bryan Lane, the new baby’s father.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • okco fair 100.jpg Oklahoma County Free Fair offers competition, free fun

    Oklahoma County residents are invited to compete in the 100th annual Oklahoma County Free Fair as they take part in many activities scheduled just for them.
    The county fair will get underway Aug. 21-23 at the Oklahoma State Fair Park and will be highlighted by its open adult and youth along with 4-H and Oklahoma Home and Community Education categories, as well as its special contest and activities.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Grieving children find support at Calm Waters

    Calm Waters Center for Children and Families offers free support groups for children, ages 3–18 and their families whose lives have been affected by death or divorce.
    Oklahoma continues to rank among the top states in the nation for unintentional and premature deaths, leaving single parents raising children. Additionally, Oklahoma continues to have one of the highest divorce rates per capita in the nation. These tragedies leave children feeling isolated, sad, and uncertain.

    July 31, 2014

  • Church hosts adult Vacation BIble School

    “Jesus is the Source” will be the theme of Edmond First Church of the Nazarene’s second annual adult Vacation BIble School.
    The progam will be from 6-8:30 p.m. Aug. 4-7 at the church, located at 3001 S. Boulevard. It will include a light supper at 6 p.m. and songs, games, storytelling and crafts beginning at 6:30 p.m.
    Presenters will include members of the congregation acting as Bible characters and a special performer will be in from Texas.

    July 31, 2014

  • UCO, local Y create community garden

    A new community garden is providing a transformative learning opportunity for students and helping stock UCO’s Central Pantry.
    The University of Central Oklahoma’s Volunteer and Service Learning Center and the Edmond Rankin YMCA are sponsoring the garden, providing a transformative learning opportunity for students, and organic fruits, vegetables and herbs for the food bank.

    July 31, 2014

  • NAMI classes begin in September

    NAMI Edmond North-OKC, the local organization of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, will offer its Family-to-Family Education Program beginning Sept. 2. It will contine Sept. 4 and 8-9. Classes will be at Crossings Community Church, Quail Springs United Methodist Church, Francis Tuttle Technology Center (Portland campus), Tinker AFB Chapel and the Thunderbird Club House in Norman.
    NAMI Family-to-Family is a free 12-session education program for family caregivers of adults living with mental illness. The sessions are offered once a week for a few hours each.

    July 30, 2014

  • clinic 1.jpg Edmond church to host free eye clinic

    An Edmond church and Feed the Children are partnering to provide a free eye clinic.
    Individuals will be able to receive a free vision test and free prescription eye glasses from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Aug. 9 at the Waterloo Road Baptist Church, 3100 E. Waterloo Road. All ages are welcome and registration is not required.

    July 29, 2014 2 Photos

  • UCO forensic volunteer wants to aid more agencies

    A four-person group of forensic investigators who volunteer their time to help smaller Oklahoma police departments isn’t enough to meet demand, a member said.
    Kama King, who recently completed her graduate research and will be a member of the faculty at the University of Central Oklahoma’s Forensic Science Institute, said outside of full-time jobs, members of the group volunteer to assist these agencies.
    As her career progresses, King hopes to help establish a permanently funded organization available to any agency in the state to assist in remains recovery as well as related training.

    July 29, 2014

  • jc_ITS map.jpg City to improve traffic flow

    The Edmond City Council this week approved a services agreement with Electronic Technology, Inc. For the  installation of Intelligent Transportation Systems’ video wall system at a cost of $314,620. The vote was 3-0.
    ITS is a fiber optic, wireless or hybrid communication system of monitoring road events and equipment in the field, data archiving and predicting traffic volume, said Kent Kacir, an engineer with Kimley-Horn and Associates Inc.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • jc_Earp Marlin 2 - photo credit Noel Winters.jpg Shootout of a sale

    An original article of the Wild West will be made available at auction Thursday. The rifle of legendary lawman Wyatt Earp will be part of the J. Levine Auction & Appraisal’s Summer Quarterly Auction in Scottsdale, Ariz.
    Earp was an Arizona deputy sheriff and deputy town marshal in Tombstone, Ariz. He is legendary for playing a key role in the gunfight at the O.K. Corral. He died in 1929 at age 80.
    Wyatt Earp collector Barry Tapp of Edmond will be selling his 1895 Wyatt Earp Marlin rifle at the auction. The rifle has an estimated value between $50,000 and $75,000. It includes authentication documentation from Tombstone Heritage Museum, according to the auction house

    July 28, 2014 2 Photos