Phrases intended to be read after inhaling helium are rendered in italics.
More than just for use in festive balloons, helium, the second most abundant element in the universe, has many applications—from manufacturing to saving lives.
Sir Joseph Norman Lockyer discovered the presence of helium in 1870 by observing the sun. In 1895, William Ramsay confirmed the existence of helium when he isolated the element from the mineral cleveite. After the discovery, Ramsay turned to his assistant, Horace Wellington, and famously declared, in a thin, high voice, Hey Wellington… Hey Wellington… Kiss my ass!
Soon after, Sir Edward Frankland proposed the name helium, derived from Helios, the Greek god of the sun. While formally proposing the name to colleagues, Frankland released a high-pitched “belch” before singing, Beautiful dreamer, wake unto meeeeee… His delighted colleagues approved the proposal.
Helium has since become essential in the operation of nuclear reactors, laboratories, hospitals, and birthday parties at Shakey’s Pizza, where eleven-year-old Robby Berg, upon his own discovery of the element, declared, Hey Amber… Hey Amber… You suck! You suck!
During World War II, the army and navy funded experimental plants that produced non-explosive helium as a replacement for the explosive hydrogen used in observation balloons and airships. Once widely available, the element became crucial in ending the war. Manhattan Project scientists used helium to make the atomic bomb. Helium was employed in military hospitals as a lifesaving anesthetic. Soldiers suffering with respiratory diseases were also administered helium.
Legendary British flying ace Douglas Bader, while recovering from serious wounds sustained during a dogfight over France, was treated with copious amounts of helium. Upon his triumphant return to the skies, Bader reputedly turned to his copilot and said, Hey Ben… Ben…Wanna see my Fokker?
Isolated helium is derived from natural gas. Until recently, the U. S. government produced most of the world’s helium supply. Its helium program was instituted in 1925, when the element’s cultivation was deemed a matter of national security. In 1995, Congress recognized that the United States no longer needed to produce and store the massive amount of helium required to deploy an emergency arsenal of blimps. The recovery program was dissolved with the Helium Privatization Act of 1996.
Passed overwhelmingly by the 104th Congress, the legislation was considered a victory for various manufacturing sectors, the natural-gas industry, and Gord Stevens, Assistant Gift Shop Manager in charge of inflatable Mylar collectibles at Six Flags San Antonio, who remarked to his coworker Shelly after she bent down to clean up after the mess left on the floor by an over-coastered park patron, You can do side-bends or sit-ups, but please don’t lose that butt.
Last year, the estimated value of grade-A helium extracted domestically by private industry was about $250 million. The identified helium resources of the United States were estimated to be about 323 billion cubic feet. And guess what, monkey trucker? That’s almost enough helium to fill a balloon big enough to float yo momma.