Cambridge scientist has just received shitty email from Timmy W

Over this:

\’The scarcity of helium is a really serious issue,\’ he is set to say. \’I can imagine that in 50 years\’ time our children will be saying, \”I can\’t believe they used such a precious material to fill balloons.\”\’

The scientist will continue: \’If we keep using it for non-essential things like party balloons, where we\’re just letting it float off into space, we could be in for some serious problems in around 30 to 50 years\’ time.\’

This is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry.

He\’s giving the Christmas Lectures.

And he\’s using mineral reserves as a signifier of resources available.

Please press the button here.


Reserves are what we\’ve bothered to check are absolutely there, we can extract with current technology and at current prices. Every generation runs out of mineral reserves: for we only bother to spend the money to prove reserves for a few decades into the future. \’Coz it costs money, see? A few decades, a generation….you see the connection?

Total availability is \”resource\”. Currently for helium, in places that we know about but haven\’t bothered to prove, it\’s about 300 year\’s worth. Err, that\’s longer than the life of the gas deposits that hold it. And I don\’t think anyone\’s even tested shale gas for helium contents yet. There are reasonable reasons to think that shale could be heavier or lighter in helium than other deposits.

Oh, and helium is constantly being generated here on Planet Earth. It\’s a possible daughter product of the fission of natural uranium…..

And I\’m afraid I\’ve just had to write him an email about this. For, and here\’s what seriously worries me, appalls me in fact. A sensible universe would not have me knowing more about this than an FRCS.

13 thoughts on “Cambridge scientist has just received shitty email from Timmy W”

  1. ” A sensible universe would not have me knowing more about this than an FRCS”

    Actually that seems to happen quite a bit. The first time I heard about Cobalt implants being toxic was the daily mail. Engineering journals are still putting out review articles that don’t mention any of this

  2. Of course he likely does know about this, it just doesn’t fit with the narrative.

    You know: “Evil mankind destroying Earth by using it all up so that it goes pffft like a busted balloon.”

    The ‘sustainability’ myth.

    The one that says: “We need to reduce the population of the planet to just enough serfs to keep me and the rest of the elite in the style to which we’re accustomed. Studying flowers and butterflies in my Oxfordshire mansion.”

  3. To understand why he is saying what he is saying you have to look at where he is going to be doing his talk from. The Royal Institution Christmas Lectures on the BBC. Nothing can appear on the BBC unless it promotes the Global Warming agenda.

  4. Sir George Porter inspired me with his Christmas lectures.

    Sadly, to join even the lowly Royal Society of Chemistry seems to require merely a GCSE in global warming.

    Nowadays, I’d rather join the Christmas Club of our local fish and chip shop.

  5. Sadbutmad – were those lectures the ones where he demonstrated how to make nylon and nearly filled the lecture theatre with it? That was fab!

  6. MatthewL, you’re right. A slip of the fingers. I was planning on also saying that only Global Warming and other anti-science is allowed on the BBC. The amount of dumbing down of science on the BBC is stupendous. Except for the real hard science like physics and astronomy (Hiya Patrick Moore up there!) and the like a lot of other science is going down the drain.

  7. There is a difference between helium (and fossil fuels) and minerals. Because when helium is gone (into outer space) it is really gone.

    Very possibly Tim knows more about the economics of helium extraction than does an FRCS. But describing helium as “a possible daughter product of the fission of natural uranium” suggests he’s rather hazy on the nuclear physics. Helium is just neutralized alphas particles, so it’s produced in any alpha decay (but not usually by fission). However, there’s no plausible way of capturing it unless the decay takes place within impermeable rock.

    Tim adds: And that’s how the helium ends up in the natural gas reservoirs. All that uranium spread throughout the rocks of the world. Decaying bit by bit underground. Helium created. Gets trapped in the same domes etc that the CH4 does.

    That’s actually what we’re harvesting: that newly (reasonably newly then) created helium.

  8. Helium is generated radiogenically at a rate of about 3,000 tonnes a year (that’s calculated from estimates of the amount of uranium and thorium in the lithosphere). And most of that helium is unavoidably lost.

    World ‘production’ of helium is about 30,000 tonnes a year. So the rate at which helium reservoirs are replenished is a very small fraction of the rate at which we’re using it.

    Tim adds: Entirely correct. So, how long can we “mine” the last 4 billion years’ worth of helium that has been produced radiogenically?

    That’s the resource available to us: not the reserve which our scientists is using.

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