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The weight of helium

San Diego Welders Supply, 25th and Market, gives the answer

Is your head a little lighter? - Image by Rick Geary
Is your head a little lighter?

Dear Matt: Does an empty tank of helium weigh more than a full one? Tanks. — Vik, La Mesa

Now that you’ve gotten that weighty question off your mind, is your head a little lighter? I’ll admit I’m kinda woozy after reading it. If I get your updraft, you’re guessing that one of those helium-balloon-fill-’em-up tanks weighs more once all the helium is used up than it did when it was full — that a certain volume of helium (light stuff) has been replaced by our grubby atmosphere (heavier stuff). Seductive logic, Vik.

To solve this one, the entire M.A. staff packed lunch boxes, stuck on those gummy name tags, got on a big yellow bus, and took a field trip. We’d barely had time to get to “85 bottles of beer on the wall” before we pulled into the lot at San Diego Welders Supply, 25th and Market, where, if you don’t already have gas, they’ll give it to you. Or sell it to you, anyway.

Once we’d piled out and lined up according to height, Bob, our tour guide, obligingly hauled out a petite-size helium tank and put it on the scale. The cast-iron cylinder was about 15 inches high, maybe 5 or 6 inches in diameter, and contained 22 cubic feet of helium under pressure of about 2000 psi. Full weight: 9.61 pounds. For the next three minutes or so, we talked in goofy cartoon-character voices as Bob drained the tank. Empty weight: 9.46 pounds. Bob took a bow, we all clapped. Then the whole SDWS staff lined up on the loading dock to wave goodbye as we linked hands and crossed the street to Golden Hill Liquor to buy a case of beer and some chips for the ride home.

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Is your head a little lighter? - Image by Rick Geary
Is your head a little lighter?

Dear Matt: Does an empty tank of helium weigh more than a full one? Tanks. — Vik, La Mesa

Now that you’ve gotten that weighty question off your mind, is your head a little lighter? I’ll admit I’m kinda woozy after reading it. If I get your updraft, you’re guessing that one of those helium-balloon-fill-’em-up tanks weighs more once all the helium is used up than it did when it was full — that a certain volume of helium (light stuff) has been replaced by our grubby atmosphere (heavier stuff). Seductive logic, Vik.

To solve this one, the entire M.A. staff packed lunch boxes, stuck on those gummy name tags, got on a big yellow bus, and took a field trip. We’d barely had time to get to “85 bottles of beer on the wall” before we pulled into the lot at San Diego Welders Supply, 25th and Market, where, if you don’t already have gas, they’ll give it to you. Or sell it to you, anyway.

Once we’d piled out and lined up according to height, Bob, our tour guide, obligingly hauled out a petite-size helium tank and put it on the scale. The cast-iron cylinder was about 15 inches high, maybe 5 or 6 inches in diameter, and contained 22 cubic feet of helium under pressure of about 2000 psi. Full weight: 9.61 pounds. For the next three minutes or so, we talked in goofy cartoon-character voices as Bob drained the tank. Empty weight: 9.46 pounds. Bob took a bow, we all clapped. Then the whole SDWS staff lined up on the loading dock to wave goodbye as we linked hands and crossed the street to Golden Hill Liquor to buy a case of beer and some chips for the ride home.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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