Helium is an exotic element that can creep and crawl on its own, it is the second most abundant element in the universe (only bested by hydrogen), some scientists theorize that it will be what makes anti-gravity possible, it makes toy balloons as well as huge zeppelins fly and yes, inhaling it will make you talk funny.
“HE” is the chemical symbol of helium which has an atomic number of 2 (A fancy way of saying that it has 2 protons).
The discovery of this element has most often Been credited to Pierre Jules César Janssen (22 February 1824 – 23 December 1907) in 1868 although some prefer to say that it was Sr. William Ramsey in 1895. Either way, helium was discovered by viewing a yellow spectral line in the sun. (Anne Marie Helmenstine, PHD.)
On the periodic table, helium sits just opposite of hydrogen in the top right hand corner of the graph. It is the least reactive of all noble gases (It prefers to hang out by itself and doesn’t mix well with other elements).
Although helium is non-toxic, it can make you light headed if you breathe it in–that’s because you are being asphyxiated (suffocated) due to the lack of oxygen that you are taking in while inhaling the helium. In rare cases, this can kill you.
Helium has an atomic weight of 4,00260, a valiance of zero and seven known isotopes.
Now for the fun stuff!
Helium is the only liquid that can not be turned into a solid simply by lowering the temperature, so if you want some helium ice cubes, you’ll have to lower the temperature and raise the pressure at the same time.
Helium is used in cryogenic research because it has a boiling point of almost absolute zero (absolute zero is 0 kelvin, -273.15C or -469.67F). That’s cold! Or hot if you are helium, because now you’re boiling!
Helium is the second most abundant element in the universe. Hydrogen is number one making up 3/4 of all matter with helium trailing a close second with the other 25%. To be so abundant in the universe, it isn’t as readily available here on earth where oxygen makes up the better part of the Earth’s surface and lucky for us! Still, just about everything has trace elements (small quantities) of helium in it.
Helium expands greatly when it is raised to room temperature which is why you most often ‘see’ helium as a gas, like the helium that you use in balloons for your birthday party.
Helium is an inert gas, meaning that in the grand scheme of things, as a gas, it doesn’t really do much but float (and it does that anyway because it is lighter than the other elements in the air).
Way back in the day, they had a bomb called the ‘Hydrogen bomb,’ and it was the fusion of hydrogen into helium that was what caused it to explode (Told you it doesn’t like to socialize).
At a temperature of 2.19k (-270.96C or -455.746F) it becomes what is called ‘Helium 1’ which is a liquid that has extraordinary properties. Helium 1 can actually crawl up the side of its container and if you don’t watch out, it can also leak through the bottom as if there were a billion little holes in it! (Ok, there are billions of little holes in it, but under normal circumstances, liquids–even helium–can’t fit through).
Below the temperature of 2.18k (-455.746F or -270.97C) it becomes helium 4, a superconductor with zero viscosity (friction). In other words, it can carry 1000 times the electrical current than copper can and it doesn’t rub anything the wrong way!
At this temperature, helium becomes a self propelled ever-flowing fountain. The problem is keeping the helium at this temperature….
Some theorists think that the properties of helium (Using it as a centrifugal mechanism) will be what enables future air-crafts to achieve anti-gravity, making space travel to extremely distant places more accessible, and hopping in the ole hover craft to go pick up your date could possibly be in your future if they are right!
So, the next time you inhale that helium from your birthday party balloon, tell your friends all about the amazing exotic qualities of the element of helium while you’re talking in that hilarious helium voice….