What Goes Up Is Rapidly Coming Down

Danielle Gailey

UNIV 200

Professor Walter G. Campbell

30 July 2014


What Goes Up Is Rapidly Coming Down

        The main decoration for many parties is contributing to the extinction of the Earth’s second most abundant element (“The Element Helium”). Helium, a natural gas that was found on the sun before it was on planet Earth is declining rapidly due to the many uses humans have become accustomed to helium providing (“The Element Helium”). There are extremely important benefits of the human use of helium such as its presence in arc shields that allow things such as power wind tunnels, pressurizing rocket fuel tanks, and medical MRI’s (“Helium“). Krule and Prywes state that, “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.” However, a great percentage of helium is falling victim to the overuse through mediums such as party balloons and voice manipulation. Within the next forty years if helium use is as consistent at is remains to be today, the world will no longer possess the noble gas named helium (“Witchalls”).

Helium derives mainly from underground gas pockets in the Great Plains, allowing the United States of America to remain relatively in control of the commercial helium production (Krule and Prywes). According to the National Academy of Sciences, helium consumption grows at a four percent increase each year, yet the prices have remained relatively constant for helium throughout the years. In 1925 the United States created the National Helium Reserve in order to prepare for zeppelin warfare (“Selling the Nation’s Helium Reserve”). However, the agency in charge of maintaining the reserve, BLM, was sitting on a plentiful amount of helium by 1996, but also an extreme amount of debt of 1.6 billion dollars (Krule and Prywes). Encouragement to creep out of debt was to begin selling bits of the helium in the reserve to private companies.

In the past, when the United States has allowed reserve contents to be distributed, they have restricted the distribution to times only categorized as an emergency (“Selling the Nation’s Helium Reserve”). Helium for financial reasons was different. The Helium Privatization Act of 1996 approved by Congress allowed for the United States to essentially sell the entire helium reserve in order to recover debt (“Selling the Nation’s Helium Reserve”). The price to sell helium was set to an amount that was precisely how much they needed to become debt free, with barely any profit resulting. This is why helium remains so cheap today. There is this whole entity that helium is a renewable resource because if not the government would not let us be using this much of it for this low of a price (Malik). Take gasoline for an example to compare the price of helium to. It is about three dollars and forty cents on a good day per gallon. Helium balloons however can be found for sale at less than one single dollar bill.

Now that the history of the nonflammable, lighter than air gas named helium and the way at which it is priced has been set forth, the ways in which it is unnecessarily used and contributing to the irreversible extinction of the noble gas will exemplified. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is practically like having a pool full of precious liquids that is drained in a matter of hours, except it instead of liquid, the item at hand is helium. “The 16 parade balloons require about 300,000 cubic feet of helium combined. Assuming a drugstore balloon is 1 cubic foot (that’s being a bit generous) that’s 18,750 drugstore balloons for each parade one” (Krule and Prywes). On average, the parade is murdering 300,000 cubic feet of helium to provide shape to the giant balloons. Is watching a gigantic batman full of precious and endangered element particles float down a street really the best way to celebrate thankfulness? Instead of realizing what is left of the helium reserve and using it sparingly for the good of the people through devices such as MRI’s that are powered by helium, Americans decide that the best way to pay their gratefulness to the element is by using a heinous amount to provide larger than life cartoons. This just does not seem to be environmentally acceptable. Would the government allow hundreds of endangered animals such as polar bears to be publically slaughtered for millions to watch? No, I do not believe that would be accepted. However, helium is an endangered element that is used excessively during the parade. Helium may not have a heartbeat, but that does not mean it should go unnoticed or fall into the category of being desensitized to the urgency of the element’s survival.

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade does not have trouble finding an overindulgent amount of helium, however universities have lost technologically advanced tools due to the shortage of the element. In July of 2012, the director of research instrumentation, Martha Morton, was affected greatly due to the helium shortage and lost a 600-MHz nuclear magnetic resonance tool that was used primarily to study the structure of molecular compounds (Reisch). Helium was the necessary element to keep this magnet running at sub-zero in order to be effectively used for scientific advancement studies, but unfortunately began to leak out of the system. With a desperate need for a quick fix of a large amount of helium, Morton fell burdened to the helium shortage. Unable to obtain the amount she needed, the rest of the instrument simply boiled off to pieces resulting in the $500,000 magnet being irreversibly useless (Reisch). How can a corporation such as Macy’s be given enough helium to supply gigantic floating cartoons, but universities and scientists cannot obtain enough of the element to keep their technology advancing instruments powered?

I began to wonder if important institutions cannot obtain helium has resulted in the devastation of smaller and even local businesses that sell party materials, helium balloons being amongst the products available. I contacted “Balloons and Things!”, a party store specializing in decorating parts via the medium of balloons to inquire if they have been affected by the shortage of helium. The person I spoke with on the telephone was reluctant to reveal a great deal of information, but gladly directed me to take a look at the announcement on their business website. After arriving at their homepage, I scrolled to the bottom and read the following posted in bright red bold lettering: “**MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENT** There is a WORLDWIDE HELIUM SHORTAGE which is driving the cost of helium up and the supply of helium at an all time low. Please consider this when making your orders. There are many non-helium filled designs that can be used to create FABULOUS decor for your events. Come in for a consultation or Call us at 804-201-0540. Please be prepared to provide your credit card for FULL PAYMENT on all orders called in over the phone. We CAN NOT blow up your order until it has been paid in full. Thank you for your attention to this matter.” This is first hand evidence that the helium shortage is a crisis that is affecting many in negative ways. Society can no longer ignore the fact that in a short amount of 40 years, helium may cease to exist along with all of it’s valuable uses.

While it’s pleasing to see that a smaller business that relies partly on the more trivial uses of helium such as balloon inflation are taking a stance to inform the public on the issue, larger corporations are not adequately announcing what is at stake when purchasing a helium filled balloon. For example, WalMart still sells mass quantities of helium tanks that individuals can use to blow up fifty party balloons for forty-two dollars. The description for the tank on WalMart’s website advises that one should recycle their helium use, but that is not a practical or efficient matter that can be carried out at this time in the world. When confronted about the mass use of helium during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade a spokesman for the company claimed, “they are inflating balloons with combinations of helium and air to cut down on helium use. But, the technology is currently not there yet to reclaim the gas in a meaningful way” (Krule and Prywes). In addition to the admittance that recycling is not a resolution to the shortage at hand, Peter Gifford, the president of a manufacturing company for helium recycling equipment called Cyromech states that a proper system for the recycling of helium costs approximately $100,000 (Reisch). The company produces equipment that can recycle helium in the set amounts of 15, 22, or 60 liters of helium which barely scratches the surface when in comparison of the actual hundreds of liters such institutions that would purchase this system use, therefore making the recycling systems for helium impractical and expensive (Reisch).

So, if helium is at risk for becoming extinct on planet Earth and recycling is not a viable option, the matter must be taken into the hands of those with the knowledge and a desire to spread the word about the helium crisis. At this moment there is no easily accessible group, club, or organization that is standing against the overuse of helium and spreading the word about the precious element helium, that “is an indispensable commodity for many high tech uses including MRI machines, semiconductor manufacturing, the NASA program and fiber optics”(“Conservation Group and Energy Company Reach…”). Instead of waiting for a grand idea to come into play and fix the crisis, society must rise and take timely action upon the matter. I have taken the opportunity of this widespread audience on the world wide web to create an awareness page, that can be joined by clicking here. If the government and corporations are lacking this greatly at dispensing the information on helium’s critically low supply, then the citizens must rise to the occasion.

With the use of helium for balloon inflation being at 13% of the United States of America’s overall use of helium, it is time to take responsibility and nurse the element back to great vitality. Each time there is a balloon floating away in the sky or a child grabbing a free balloon from the net in some Kroger shopping centers, remember the vital uses of helium such as MRI and NASA equipment. Without helium, scientific research will be hindered at extraordinary levels given that the main use of helium, still only 32% of the total use, is for cryogenics, an important tool for scientific studies in physics dealing with very low temperatures, in the United States of America (Watson). It is up to the inhabitants of the third planet from the sun, earth, if it is more important to have stretched out pieces of plastic floating with helium inside or extremely important medical and scientific tools.

I for one find it astonishing that almost every person I have come into contact with is not yet aware of the helium shortage being experienced worldwide. No longer can I watch the planet be stripped of such a resource for something as trivial as a helium inflated balloon. I believe it is completely necessary to now act in forms of protest and boycotting businesses and corporations that endlessly supply helium balloons to the public. To hinder this heinous action would be effective in not only spreading the word to the public about the crisis, but also in diminishing the enormous 13% usage of helium balloons. Media is an effective way to spread the word throughout the web, so I have created a visual, available by clicking here, that delves more into what the average person can do to catapult the worldwide spread of knowledge that helium should no longer be used to inflate balloons when there are so many greater and by far important uses the element can be applied to. According to Newton, simply put, what goes up must come down. The use of helium is on the rise and it must come down just as a helium filled balloon will go from touching the ceiling to hitting the floor. It is up to the people to make informed decisions and conserve the helium.


Works Cited

“Balloons and Things!” Balloons and Things! Balloons and Things!, n.d. Web. 28 July 2014.

“Conservation Group and Energy Company Reach Agreement on Planned Helium Development in Emery County, Utah.” Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 July 2014.

“The Element Helium.” It’s Elemental. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 July 2014.

“Helium.” WebElements Periodic Table of the Elements. N.p., n.d. Web. 34 July 2014.

Krule, Miriam, and Noam Prywes. “Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Is One Giant Waste of Gas.” Slate Magazine. N.p., 20 Nov. 2012. Web. 24 July 2014.

Malik, Jennifer A. “Washington Avoids Helium Shortage.” MRS Bulletin. Cambridge, 12 Dec. 2013. Web. 28 July 2014.

Reisch, Marc S. “Coping With The Helium Shortage.” CEN RSS. N.p., 5 Feb. 2013. Web. 25 July 2014.

Selling the Nation’s Helium Reserve. Washington, DC: National Academies, 2010. National Academies Press, 2010. Web. 30 July 2014.

Watson, Stephanie. “How Cryonics Work.” HowStuffWorks. HowStuffWorks.com, n.d. Web. 28 July 2014.

Witchalls, Clint. “Nobel Prizewinner: We Are Running out of Helium.” New Scientist. New Scientist, 18 Aug. 2010. Web. 24 July 2014.

Inquiry Focus

The inquiry project I will be constructing has the main focus of human’s trivial use of helium causing it to rapidly deplete. I plan to delve into the many ways we use helium and the extremity of the levels that we do so. In addition I have found some more important uses of helium, such as it’s presence in medical MRI’s and want to include the levels on which helium is used for important measures in comparison with the levels at which things such as helium balloons and using helium for voice manipulation. I hope to capture the reader by approaching this extremely timely and serious issue with a creative approach through the use of interactive media inserts such as gifs, video, and audio links that I plan to create myself. In conclusion, I strive to leave the reader informed and persuaded to take action to save the endangered element of helium.

Reflection and Progression

I’ve been in New York City for the past two weeks for work related reasons, so it’s been difficult to keep completely up-to-date with all the posts, but I think this week has been some of my best work despite the set back of traveling and poor wifi circumstances. I really enjoyed the MetaMetaMeta concept experience because of the ability to approach computers as a manipulative clay-like machine rather than strictly static. It was a very interesting concept that I had a lot of fun with and had never considered before.

Being in the big apple was actually really helpful with linking what we’ve been exploring thus far in the course with human networking. The city is full of computers. Computers almost run the city. There is an electronic board that tells you which subway busses are coming, the cab’s have televisions and computer operated payment methods. New York City is relying so heavily through electricity and computing techniques. I was intrigued to see if there was any kind of back up plan in case power was lost in the concrete jungle, but didn’t find anything extremely promising. The only informational bit I found about a happening was this article on how to be prepared if your home loses power in the city.

Aside from that, I want to talk about the extremity of the helium use in the city. There are balloons everywhere. It’s not something you really notice unless you pay attention to the use of helium balloons like I do, but literally every single block has balloons somewhere whether it be to add decor to their food menu on the street or simply tied to a light pole, the presence of balloons is outstanding. I decided to look up how much helium NYC uses, but there were no concrete measurements. However, I did come across an interesting tid-bit about a major New York balloon and helium store going out of business due to the shortage of helium.

Now, to actually reflect on my work from this week, I want to heavily focus on my inquiry project. I have a lot of information from various sources documented and have began minor construction to the project. In conjunction with these informational findings, I still want to go to a balloon/party store in Richmond, VA and see how the shortage of helium has affected their business if at all. I think it would be an interesting aspect to help evoke a sense of urgency to the problem since it will give a personal view into the dilemma.


Meta Cubed Concept Experience

Upon reading the prompt for this concept experience, I really enjoyed that we would be telling the backstories of our blog posts. When I read other blog posts, I see the final product from the author. What I don’t always see is their entire thought process behind creating their blog and what aspects they enjoyed in their work. I’m excited to read the posts for this week’s experience to see what kind of processes my fellow dreamers use!


I was weary of picking my most recent blog post just because I wanted to find something further down my list of previous entries to explore my progress thus far, but this most recent post ties in extremely well with this concept experience. It specifically touches on creating something more from a basic written signal. It is surprising to see all the ways in which this can be applied to life. I wanted to tie in some aspects of my personal life to this blog post, so I spoke about my experience in theatre and how an actor manipulates a written script into something new. A machine was used to type and print the script, but the actor can use his mind to bend the words and actions to literally mold them into something unique.

My favorite blog post was for the assignment where we had to choose sentences from our previous posts to form one sensical paragraph. To create this train of thought, I went to various blogs and pulled sentences. From there I tried to organize them one at a time to create something that made general sense. I was incredibly surprised to find that it was not as difficult as I had earlier anticipated. In my opinion, I didn’t think there was any way to logically piece together sentences from that many various sources. However, it turned out that my blog post pretty much made perfect sense! All the sentences I used were static in that they did not physically change. I did however manipulate them to have different meaning by their placement with other sentences. Once again this class allowed me to broaden my horizon and limits of thinking with a  surprisingly effective end result.

Along with the previous two posts, I believe one of the earliest posts I wrote for this class has a great connect to this current concept experience. It was forming a network through the web, but simultaneously thinking behind each kinetic action from site to site. The framework for the assignment was simple: make a list of sites you visited, record the time, and explain why you think each site took you to the next. That last part of the assignment is what makes it fit so perfectly with the concept of using a clay molding method rather than focusing on the technicality of the matter. I manipulated the sites by forming a chain of actions in which combined an expression of my personality. The sites broadly showed my interest of music down to the precision of one of my favorite artists.

The web does not control us, we use it according to our personality and desires. It has the computing knowledge, but ultimately we manipulate the computers to do what we want from them, custom making our world wide web experience. I like to think of this concept as a spider web. Spiders make webs, but every single web is different. They’re all webs, but each one is specific to the spider it belongs to, just as each web search history is belonging of the internet user.

Responsive Creativity Nugget

“For most of recorded history, the interactions of humans with their media have been primarily nonconversational and passive in the sense that marks on paper, paint on walls, even “motion” pictures and television, do not change in response to the viewer’s wishes. A mathematical formulation—which may symbolize the essence of an entire universe—once put down on paper, remains static and requires the reader to expand its possibilities.”

This nugget of the essay resonates so well with my life and this class. It’s a concept that is irrefutably true. Although I find it accurate, it is not an idea that I have ever considered or expanded upon. The notion of media remaining static and not adhering to the reader’s direct wish, therefore making them branch creatively and independently forms personality in my opinion. People are going to respond to all forms of media differently to some degree and within those responses, personality is formed and expressed.

However, this class actually can refute this statement of media being static and non-responsive the receptor’s wishes. Whenever I post to my blog for this course I almost always receive at least one comment. Of course my published blog is not responsive the exact second someone examines it inquisitively, but after reading comments I can go back and make my blog a better piece through peer review.

I do have to add in that my artistic background sparked my intrigue to this passage from the essay. As a theatre costume design major at VCU, I am surrounded by marks, symbols, and pictures all day whether it be a clothing pattern or sewing machine operation manual. With that being said, the given basic instructions for creating a costume are in place on paper, but I as the reader am given the freedom as all to expand on the possibilities as stated in the essay. I can choose a different pattern of fabric or a different stitch and give the garment a completely different feel.

Branching off of the theatre aspect of my life, as one who is around performance majors a great deal also, I too know that they manipulate a written script. The written lines have to be delivered, but the manner in which they are is a responsibility of which the actor must accomplish to envelope the true being of a character.

So, I agree that media is static for a given time frame, but one can eventually change the media in the future, but cannot actually instantaneously see their edits in action. It takes time and work to generate a new meaning to a static piece of media. I think it is very interesting that we all in a sense create a personal art with out response to media. We receive the information and imagine it, therefore exercising the brand and all of it’s possibility; which is a result I have yet again experienced from this class while forming this week’s nugget.

Helium Inquiry 2…Inflate with even more comments!

1.         Every year on my birthday as a child, my parents bought balloons as celebration décor as I’m sure many parents do for their children. These bouncy pieces of plastic are filled with an element that allows them to defy gravity in a sense. This element is called helium. I was fascinated by it’s properties and how it was able to float so easily. As I looked into acquiring more knowledge, I came across something that saddened and quite frankly scared me a bit. The Earth’s helium is depleting at rapid levels. We are losing helium so steadily that in a few years the element will be extinct in our world. The intolerable aspect of this epidemic is how carelessly humans are still using helium. I want to find a way to bring awareness to the dilemma at hand and I believe the first step is to target those engaged in the digital age. After all, helium is a part of the Earth’s composition for a reason, and I fear that if we exhaust it’s entire existence then we will disrupt the world’s balance which could result in some phenomenon we are not yet aware of nor predicting since this subject is so overlooked. I will be fully focusing on the minute amount of knowledge spread to the public of rapid helium depletion due to the neglect of the consumer in order to continue using the element for trivial purposes. Citing specific examples such as walking into a Dollar Tree and taking account for all the balloons they have in that store available for one dollar when according to one of my below listed sources the price of helium filled balloons should be well into the hundreds of dollars.


2.         I plan to further investigate the issue of helium depletion through the vector of scientific research and reality research. To present this evidence in a paper format I will need to conduct research which I plan to take into three-dimens.ional terms and actually visit a store that sells helium balloons to see if they have any insight on the sales.


3.         I believe that if the public is informed through social media vectors then they will begin to grow concern and spread the word. Once the awareness of helium loss is ignited, I have no doubt it will spread like wildfire throughout the web.  I want to create a video that engages the reader of my inquiry through multimedia that predicts a world without helium in order to truly evoke the sense of urgency at hand if we want to continue living in a world where helium exists. I want to finally inform the public and explain to them why they have been in the dark about this matter for so long now.

What do you guys think? Please leave your comments, advice, critique, and concerns!

Source List (thus far):




Newly Improved Nugget

“Computers are simply a necessary and enjoyable part of life, like food and books. Computers are not everything, they are just an aspect of everything, and not to know this is computer illiteracy, a silly and dangerous ignorance.”

Computers are becoming everything. Those enjoyable things mentioned such as food and books are now computer involved. Books can be purchased and viewed digitally on devices known as the Nook or Kindle and food coupons can be viewed and orders palced using digital devices. In one of my previous blog posts, there was even talk of a printer that can create  edible items. So, it is true that computers are an aspect of everything, but I believe they are  progressing to be the entirety of all things we engage ourselves with.

Since computers are indeed becoming more than an aspect of life, it’s true that computer illiteracy is a dangerous characteristic to possess. In a world where everything is becoming automated by computers and technology, the average human will absolutely have to have a general knowledge on the workings of these machines. It takes patience, but I believe it is a knowledge of which everyone should be required to obtain.

People used to wash laundry and dishes by hand and that was the only way they knew how to get their items in a cleanly state. However, a washing machine was introduced to the world. Upon the purchase of this device, the consumer had to learn how to operate the machine properly. This concept obtaining probably did take some time to get used to and understand, but once the technique was established, washing clothes became a very easy and less time consuming chore.

I believe that computers fall under the same concept of the washing machine. It’s an amazing device that can help one save so much time and energy, but reluctance to learn it’s tools can leave one in complete frustration. If everyone took the time to learn how to operate a computer, I believe the world would be more prosperous. In that same breath however, if computers begin to take over the world as they seem to be progressing in capability towards, then i fear it could run human existence into a trivial state given they would be able to function so much more properly and efficiently than a human specimen.

There are classes one can take at the Apple stores or public libraries that improve technological literacy, but society has to be willing to take those steps. In a world that relies so heavily on computing capability, it is a tool necessary to even the most general of public.

Speaking of which, I recently went into an Apple store to obtain a new charger and was surprised by what I saw. There were three tables full of older ladies and gentleman actually being trained in how to use Apple products efficiently and correctly. As I was happy to see the older generations interest in gaining this technological knowledge, I realized it was only geared towards the Apple products though. So, if Apple is the only place that’s really honing in the students, does that mean we will eventually turn to a complete Apple technology world since it’s use will be the most known? I thought maybe for a second, but then realized we still don’t technically operate on one measuring system or language even though there are clearly most used options in those areas.