We all love helium. My college roommates would inhale helium in science labs and then do hilarious impersonations of Donald Duck. We buy helium tanks to fill birthday balloons to create the festive ambiance at kids’ parties. But according to astrophysicist Ethan Siegel, we will soon exhaust the world’s supply of helium.
Although helium is the second most abundant element in the universe (hydrogen is #1), keeping it on Earth is difficult because it is the second lightest element. This means that it is lighter than air – hence its levitation qualities that we love – so once released, it heads up to outer space.
Unfortunately for us, it takes hundreds of millions of years to produce helium by radioactive decay deep at the core of the earth. In other words, if we don’t conserve helium soon, we will run out and won’t be able to produce it again within our lifetime. Helium is needed as a coolant for particle accelerators, MRI machines, superconductors, and other uses.
So don’t buy helium balloons for parties, graduations, or other celebrations. Instead bundle balloons together creating a bouquet and hang them from the ceiling or attach them to rods as table decorations.