The World Is Running Out Of Helium, Balloons Will Eventually Cost $100

Illustration for article titled The World Is Running Out Of Helium, Balloons Will Eventually Cost $100

Apparently, the world is running out of helium. Robert Richardson, a Nobel Prizewinner, believes that helium supplies will run out in 25 years. And since no other substance has a lower boiling point than helium, this could be a problem.


I guess we're wasting helium by throwing it into birthday balloons because Richardson thinks that "helium is far too cheap and is not treated as a precious resource." And he's right, when you inhale something for the sole purpose of talking in a funny voice, you're not exactly treating it as a precious resource. Helium, because of its low boiling point, also makes for a great cooling source and is used to manufacture fiber optics and LCDs. So it's actually kind of important

And it looks like the biggest culprit in the depletion of helium is the US (the world's biggest supplier of helium). The US government has been selling helium at cut-rate costs and plans to sell off half of the Earth's helium stock by 2015. That's sort of soon. So what does Robert Richardson suggest we do? He says:

[The US should] get out of the business and let the free market prevail. The consequence will be a rise in prices. Unfortunately, party balloons will be $100 each rather than $3 but we'll have to live with that. We will have to live with those prices eventually anyway.

I'm pretty sure I won't buy another helium balloon if it costs a $100. Sorry my future kid, I should have treated helium better. [New Scientist via PopSci]


How the hell do you get helium anyway? I can't really imagine having helium pit mines...

And besides, helium is the second most simple element in the periodic table - how do we have the technology to bomb the entire planet off... well, the planet a gajillion times over, but we can't synthesize a molecule with two protons, two electrons and a neutron or two? (I'm going from memory here, don't flame me for getting the composition wrong)