May 4, 2012

"Let's believe in change" balloons explode, burning 144 people.

"Let's believe in change" is the slogan of the Republican Party, the governing party in Armenia.

11 comments:

rhhardin said...

It shows once again the dangers of smoking.

chickenlittle said...

Oh, the humanity!

traditionalguy said...

That looks like the oposition hired Red Adair to snuff out the hot air geysers coming from the Republican speakers.

edutcher said...

And I thought the big gasbags were Pelosi, Joe, and Zero.

Rabel said...

49 Luftballoons

EDH said...

Did they use hydrogen instead of helium?

Helium stocks run low – and party balloons are to blame

The world supply of helium, which is essential in research and medicine, is being squandered, say scientists

The gas, used to cool atoms to around -270C to reduce their vibrations and make them easier to study, is now becoming worryingly scarce, said Kirichek. Research facilities probing the structure of matter, medical scanners and other advanced devices that use the gas may soon have to reduce operations or close because we are frittering away the world's limited supplies of helium on party balloons...

"It costs £30,000 a day to operate our neutron beams, but for three days we had no helium to run our experiments on those beams," said Kirichek. "In other words we wasted £90,000 because we couldn't get any helium. Yet we put the stuff into party balloons and let them float off into the upper atmosphere, or we use it to make our voices go squeaky for a laugh. It is very, very stupid. It makes me really angry."

Earth only has a limited supply of helium, which is released as a by-product of the petrochemical industry. Essentially, pockets of the gas are disturbed during gas and oil drilling and rise to the surface. In the 1920s the US decided helium would be a strategic resource. It realised that air power would be crucial in future wars, and assumed that these would be fought by airships that would use helium to float. "The US created a vast stockpile of billions of litres of helium in the 1920s and kept it until the late 1990s, when it decided to sell it off," said Jonathan Flint, the CEO of Oxford Instruments, whose scanners and other devices use helium for cooling.

For the past decade that vast stockpile has been sold off, causing prices to plummet. "Helium was cheap and we learned to be wasteful with it," said Kirichek. "Now the stockpile is used up, prices are rising and we are realising how stupid we have been."

Professor Robert Richardson, of Cornell University, New York, who won the Nobel physics prize in 1996 for his research on helium, argues that a helium party balloon should cost £75, to reflect the true value of the gas used. Yet you can buy enough helium to float 200 balloons for that price. "We are squandering an irreplaceable resource," he says.

Ironically, helium is the second most abundant element in the universe. (Hydrogen is the most abundant.) It is just that helium is scarce on Earth. "The solar wind that pours away from the Sun is rich in helium, but it never reaches the surface of the Earth because of our thick atmosphere," said Dr Ian Crawford, of Birkbeck College, in the University of London. "However, our studies of rocks brought back by Apollo astronauts shows that it is absorbed by soil on the Moon. There are about 22 grams of helium in every cubic metre of lunar soil. There is also hydrogen in that soil, which astronauts could use for fuel and to make water, so you could envisage the day when it becomes economic to build mines on the moon to supply us with helium. It just depends how expensive our own sources become."

And that day might not be too far off, say scientists. Supplies remain very uncertain.

Researchers are now warning that the use of scanners and other machines may be increasingly disrupted, an unpleasant prospect, said David Ward of the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy.

Darrell said...

The Demons of Irony/Comeuppance were on strike in the US in 2008.
They could have had a field day.

chickenlittle said...

EDH said...
Did they use hydrogen instead of helium?

Yes. That's a signature hydrogen burn. Notice how the flames rise quickly because the released hydrogen is so buoyant. It rises and combines with O2.

Same thing happened in the Hindenburg diaster if you look at old photos. The flames went UP. Many victims were burned by the flaming skin of the dirigible.

chickenlittle said...

Hydrogen fires are intensely hot though, and the radiant heat probably caused most of the burns.

Kevin said...

Rats, I was going to do "oh, the humanity!"

Xmas said...

Hydrogen...It's a gas!