Where/how do the they get helium?

There’s not much in the atmosphere, and we haven’t nailed controlled fusion yet, so where did the helium that fills balloons and blimps come from?

What’s with all the helium questions? Is it something in the air?

Helium is present underground on earth, where it can be extracted before it escapes the atmosphere. It is a constituent in some sources of natural gas. It is possible to collect it from the atmosphere, but the cost is prohibitively high.

Wikipedia

Some from google:
http://yarchive.net/chem/helium_source.html
http://www.corrosionsource.com/handbook/periodic/2.htm

http://darwin.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=9860&page=40

Excellent links, thanks.

Surely all natural gas isn’t still subjected to these extremes?

Helium is one of the products of radioactive decay, so they tend to find it along with uranium and other such elements.

No, there are certain wells known to produce an appreciable percentage of He. Presumably only the gas from those would be so treated.

How do they make helium? It’s an inert gas!

Note that the US pretty much has a corner on the world helium supply. Arabs got the oil, Russian’s got the Titaninium, and we got the Helium.

A fact which introduced the expression “O the humanities” into our culture.

Not for long. The natural gas the contains appreciable amounts of helium is being burned off just like any natural gas. When it’s burned, the helium escapes to the atmosphere and can’t be reclaimed (without tremendous amounts of effort). Yet the government has disbanded the Bureau of Mines helium plant and there are only a couple of private companies producing helium. The federal helium deposit will be sold off in 2015 IIRC.

Actually, the Middle East has only 50% of the world’s proven oil reserve, and if you subtract the non-Arabs (i.e., Iran), the Arabs have less than 50%.

A common misconception. The Hindenberg burned not because of the hydrogen it was filled with, but because of the rocket fuel the skin was painted with. The disaster would have been just as bad if it had been filled with helium.

And besides, the expression was “Oh, the humanity”, singular. The humanities are literature, history, and other such subjects.

I was reading about airships recently and apparently the Bain Incendary-Paint Theory is somewhat controversial still.