I impress my sister in law with my helium stockpile

For Christmas my Sister in law (married to my brother,) got my daughter a hoverdisc.

“Maybe Daddy will take you to get if filled with helium on Friday,” she says.

It’s moments like these that I live for.

“Why should we wait till Friday?”

“Well, I think the stores are closed on Christmas.”

“Why would we need to go to the stores?”

“Well, it’s not like everybody has helium on hand, is it?”

I raise my eyebrows.

“You have helium?” she asks, incredulously.

This is just like my dreams. I lay awake at night fantasizing about people in dire need of some esoteric thing I keep stored in my garage. With practiced nonchalance, I respond.

“I don’t know about anybody else, but frankly I think it’s irresponsible not to keep a reserve supply of noble gases on hand pending need. You never know when you’re going to despertely need an inert lighter than air compound, and then where will you be.”

“You really have helium?”

“I have a whole cylinder in the garage.”


This is a question I’m not prepared for. Usually when I’m able to produce something useful and needed I don’t get questioned about it. I just receive gratitude and admiration… which is why I keep things like this on hand.

…But I can hardly tell her that the purpose of my helium supply is to impress people with the fact that I have a helium supply.

“Helium is a massively useful element with all kinds of utility,” I reply. “I keep it by my welding MAPP gases.”

“So you use helium in welding?” She asks. It figures my brother would marry a professor.

“Well, not exactly” I hedge. “You don’t use helium for welding. I just happen to keep it by my MAPP gas.”


“Because that’s where I keep my gas cylinders.”

“Do you keep other gas cylinders like Xenon on hand?”

At this point SIL clearly doesn’t realize my helium storage is a flaky enterprise at best. She is assuming there is a good reason to store this gas, and perhaps others and is seriously seeking my expertise in understanding the reasoning. I don’t wish to disavow her of her newfound admiration, though.

“Xenon?” I say in a deprecating fashion. “What would I want with Xenon?” As if everybody knows Xenon is useless.

“Well, what do you use the helium for?” She asks reasonably.

“Certain experiments, esoteric enterprises, and such.”

“Like what?”

“Filling balloons.”

“Is that it?”

“Pretty much.”

I’m not sure she’s impressed anymore.

You’re so odd. Yet strangely amusing.


Band name!

It’s good to keep a helium stockpile on hand. At the very least, you hogging all the helium forces terrorist to fill their Zepplins with flammable hydrogen.

Jeez. If I had one, I’m sure my Helium Stockpile would be kept right next to my phone.

“Hello? Hello? Follow the Yellow Brick Road, Dorothy!”


What is a hoverdisc?

You need your very own Zepplin Of Death. That will impress the in-laws!

You can get one HERE!

Have fun, & play nice kids!

Hover disk

I had to fill mine with air. I’m a dismal failure. (by mine I mean my kids but you knew that.)

Well, there’s an obvious reason why Scylla doesn’t stockpile xenon. It’s neither inert nor a lighter than air compound, doncha know.

Very bizarre, but it made me smile.

Hey, Scylla, can I borrow some Argon? I’ll bring it right back!

I don’t suppose filling her in on the blimp episode would have enhanced your reputation either.

Better hold on to that tank. New Scientist says we’re headed for a helium shortage:

No link, you have to subscribe to get the article, but it’s the December 21 2002 issue.

drewbert, official party-pooper

Well one CAN use helium for welding.


Ahhhh…I harken back to a New Years Eve sometime in the mid 80s. We were at a restaurant that was decorating with helium balloons. We thought we’d be much more fun if WE were decorated with helium, and slid the tank next to the table so we could toke directly off the nozzle.

While it’s true that you can make some barely stable compounds with xenon, it’s pretty perverse to say that it’s “not inert”. For just about all practical purposes, it is.

And it won’t leak out through those tiny pores as easily as helium.

Back when I was in grad school, our physics department had a helium-reclamation system. To show you how popular it was, it wasn’t being used. Helium is still too cheap to bother reclaiming, and we continue to fill balloons and hovercraft with them. Not to mention Macy’s parade balloons.
Unfortunately, once helium escapes, it goes right to the top of the atmosphere, and eventually picks up enough KE to zing off into space. (it doesn’t stay on the Earth, because it is, for practical purposes, inert) One day we’re gonna have to “mine” the gas giants for helium so we can approach absolute zero, cool our superdense microcircuitry, and make our voices squeaky high.

Actually, Xenon is quite fun as well. Just don’t breathe it like you do helium. That’s not as fun.

I saw one of those hoverdisks at the mall last week, and I thought about you and the blimp story, Scylla. Then, on Friday, I saw a man holding a sign announcing that the local Zany Brainy is closing down and having a clearance sale.

So, are the hoverdisks fun? Do they tend to lurk around the house at night?

Real men stockpile methane.
Come to think of it, lots of real women do too.

I’ve never methaned in front of a family member in my life. I don’t think I stockpile it. My husband, on the other hand, manufacturers it, stores mass quantities, and more often than I’d like to admit, hands out free, unsolicited samples.