Will Filling an Air Mattress with Helium Make It Float?
Don't get your hopes up.
What if you could make your bed float? No this isn’t a new Harry Potter-themed exhibition it's a science experiment. If you pump an air mattress full of helium will it float?
That was the proposition put down by The Action Lab YouTube channel. Unfortunately for all of us. The miracle does not eventuate.
The experiment was almost scuttered before it took off because of the national helium shortage. Helium is a byproduct of natural gas and as much of our natural gas is sourced from Qatar who is currently part of a complex regional crisis.
Nevertheless, the host of the action Lab was able to secure some tanks containing 80% helium 20% air. He pumps the double bed mattress up with the mixture...but it doesn’t float. Though it is incredibly light and very bouncy.
The helium shortage is due to a couple of very interesting reasons. The first is that until the mid-1990s the United States operated a large scale helium storage facility to support the government.
However, in 1996, the federal government decided that the storage of gases should be the responsibility of the private sector. Since then there has been a volatility to the market.
Helium is a critical gas for many scientific research projects and process, and a shortage can adversely affect scientific advancement. The recent shortage is in part due to the blockade by Saudi Arabia against Qatar, one of the world's largest producers of helium.
Back in 2017, a consortium of countries led by Saudi Arabia and including the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain cut all diplomatic, economic, and social ties with the tiny Gulf state. This meant that helium had to find a new route out of the country as it could no longer be transported through Saudi Arabia.