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On Helium Balloon Heaven & the Case for Recent Creation
Little Johnny is trudging through the amusement park. His fist is clenched tightly. He is proudly holding onto the string of that great big helium-filled balloon his mother finally agreed to buy him. But suddenly he is jarred by a passer-by. His hand slips. And Johnny’s balloon is …uh, unfortunately, up, up, and away!
Not an uncommon summertime scene perhaps. But have you ever stopped to wonder just where all those helium-filled balloons ever end up? Or more to the point, if you have already figured out that the balloons themselves eventually break and drift back down to earth, where does the helium end up?
Where in the world is helium balloon “heaven”? For an answer, take a closer look at this very intriguing chemical element we call helium (derived from “helios”, the Greek word for sun.) Its atomic number is “2”, its chemical symbol is “He”, and it tips the scales at only 4.00260 (atomic weight) –quite light even by the standard of other lightweight gasses. Here in the United States, about 700 million cubic feet of helium is used every year by both federal agencies and private industry. The major uses for helium have to do, not with balloons, but with maintaining proper rocket pressure, and heliarc welding.
But the one thing about helium that may perhaps astound you more than any other is that no less than 13 million atoms of helium are being exuded from every square inch of the earth’s crust per second, every minute of every hour of every day of every year –worldwide! All of this helium is zipping up past your nose every time you go outdoors. Of course, since its colorless, odorless, and tasteless, you never even notice.
Because helium is lighter than air, it rises. And rises. And rises. In fact, it keeps right on rising until it arrives at the very upper reaches of earth’s atmosphere –the exosphere. “Helium heaven” (whether the helium comes from party balloons or industrial tanks) is literally in the heavens. In fact, some helium seems to actually escape from the atmosphere and drift right out into space.
But at this point we encounter what many evolutionary proponents (perhaps you are included here) must consider an enigmatic twist. The present atmospheric helium (He-4) content is only 3.9 x 1015 grams. Based even on the present rate of helium efflux into the atmosphere (past rates would likely have been even greater), there ought to be a WHOLE LOT MORE helium up there than that! Even allowing for some helium escape from the exosphere (although there is currently no conclusive evidence that it is or ever has escaped in significant a-mounts, and there is even the strong probability that H-4 is actually entering the atmosphere from outer space), the present level of atmospheric helium could have easily formed in only thousands (not millions) of years.
So what’s the point? The point is that the total amount of helium down through the ages of time that has found its way to “helium heaven” could easily have done so in a period far too brief to support any of the modern theories of an ancient earth (4.5 billion years) and therefore, in turn, any viable theory of macro-evolution.
Now no one claims that evolution could have occurred in only thousands of years. So if you have been inclined to just easily accept evolutionary theory as fact, based on this information, you may want to rethink your position. The “helium problem” is, quite frankly, a piece of the puzzle that doesn’t fit the old-earth, evolutionary model.
The Bible in Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.” When my high school Music Director, Alma O’Leary, taught our chorus to sing that Psalm back in the 1960s, it never occurred to me that “the heavens” include five parts helium per million parts air. Nor did I, at the time, ever really appreciate the profound testimony that that great music bears to the simple account of God’s ex nihilo, by fiat creative power in such a place as Genesis 1.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION you may wish to contact Larry Vardiman, c/o Institute for Creation Research, 2100 Greenfield Drive, El Cajon CA 92021. Dr. Vardiman is an astrophysicist and geophysicist with a Ph.D. in Atmospheric Physics from Colorado State University. He has published several papers based on his research regarding helium content in the atmosphere and its bearing on the age of the earth. Other resource material for the above article includes the research and writing of some scientists who hold to a creationist view and others of whom subscribe to an evolutionary doctrine of origins, including: Joseph W. Chamberlain, Melvin A. Cook, and Dudley J. Benton.