Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Afghan War & Party Balloons

From the Who Knew Files:

Massive helium-filled spy balloons are in demand in Afghanistan, but getting the helium is getting much harder:

Demand for helium in Afghanistan has shot up, from 49,000 cubic meters to fiscal year 2009 to an estimated 531,000 cubic meters this year.

"Getting mega-blimps to landlocked Afghanistan is no cakewalk. Once filled, these spy blimps can’t be deflated at the risk of messing up their flight control surfaces. This means that helium either needs to be flown to a base where the blimps have to be filled up, or they have to be inflated in the U.S. and then shipped over to Afghanistan in a giant container."

Here at home, party stores are pondering the day when the planet has no more helium for balloons or all the other industries that need it:

Like oil and coal, helium is a limited natural resource, and as the supply dwindles, cost rises. "It's been like a 20 percent increase in helium but like gas prices as well, everything else has to go up," Berardi said.

"Did you know that MRI scanners use helium to cool magnetic imaging? Nuclear reactors and liquid-fuel rockets also use helium. And this natural gas detects leaks in vacuum systems."

Who knew?

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