Helium is one of those things that are interesting. It’s the first element that was predicted to exist. It was first discovered by looking at absorption lines from looking at the sun. Good old Sol. Helios.
The thing is that helium is getting hard to come by.
For the longest time it was stockpiled by the US government for strategic reasons — mostly to ensure that we can make bombs. Then, around a decade ago, congress decided that the strategic stockpile should be liquidated.
That ushered in a period of low prices for helium.
That came to a close recently.
Every time that helium is released to the atmosphere it soon gets lost. Not just lost to the atmosphere, but lost from the Earth. It floats off into space lost.
Many of the things we rely on require helium. Things like MRI machines, weather observations, types of welding.
And yet we still give out helium balloons for birthdays. Not only does the latex balloon not contain the gas, but it’s also so transient and wasteful. It shouldn’t be as cheap as it is to just buy it to release for LOLs.
It makes me a bit sad to see the waste that people do with this stuff.