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You're stressed out in part because you have too much bubble wrap?

Isn't that a self-correcting condition?

OMG! I never thought of that... Merry bubble popping relieves stress! :)

Moving? I sympathize. Relocating from Texas to Wisconsin a few years ago was the most stressful thing my wife and I have ever done together.

the balloon-borne tether system could be used to secure WiFi platforms in rural areas,

More than WiFi but that gets the press right now. Other uses could include cameras, radio relay for military or civil disaster purposes.

But how cool that we're still on your mind. Thanks!

I like how ballooning captured the French imagination enough that they celebrated it on handpainted plates, such as these I saw at the branch of the Air and Space Museum out near Dulles Airport:

I also once went through a book of old French toile fabric prints that they have at the San Francisco Public Library and found a charming pattern with two or three repeating scenes of ballooning. One of the scenes showed some peasants ogling and pointing their rifles at this strange contraption that had come out of the sky. I suppose nowadays the equivalent scene would go onto a t-shirt, not someone's tablecloth or dress...

"It was probably just a matter of time before NASA realized the scientific potential of balloons as a cost-effective means of exploring space, including other planets."

Actually, NASA used balloons in space (quite literally!) as early as 1960 -- Echo 1A and Echo 2. Essentially for bouncing radio and TV signals off of; they were also very bright and seen by huge numbers of people. See:

I like your column when I have enough time to read it - found it through Phil Plait. Isn't the internet cool ?
"The number of atoms inside the balloon doesn't change when it's heated (or cooled, for that matter)."
In a sealed weather balloon this is true, but you were talking about a Montgolfier balloon. If temperature changes, volume doesn't much, and pressure has to reach a steady state with the atmosphere, then the number of atoms must be changing.
By the way the number of molecules in the "I Love You" balloon seems to have changed since I bought it for my wife on our anniversary 3 weeks ago. The string is still holding it up, but it must be getting heavier because it's not as high !
Does that confuse things ?

The ANITA balloon-borne experiment was launched from Antarctica December 15, providing a low-cost way to observe cosmic rays.

The trouble with sealed balloons is that they aren't very well sealed. Atoms in your typical valentine's day balloon migrate out, and others from the air migrate in. Since the helium is lower density than air, any exchange will lead to the balloon getting heavier.

You typically don't get very pure helium, either.

When i was younger, i created hydrogen by electrolisis from water. The oxygen was released and not used. I used a fish tank air pump to put it into a balloon. It zipped up to the ceiling. After a few days, it deflated and dropped to the floor. But it didn't deflate all the way. If it were pure hydrogen in there, it wouldn't have fallen at all. This was proven by filling another balloon only that much.

The next experiment was to ignite a hydrogen filled balloon. A candle was used to burst the balloon and ignite it at the same time. The balloon was brought to it tied to a stick. It had a kind of odd pop sound, but wasn't at all dangerous.


Now it happens that in America a man who goes up hanging to a Balloon is a Professor.
One day a Professor, preparing to make a Grand Ascension, was sorely pestered by Spectators of the Yellow-Hammer Variety, who fell over the Stay-Ropes or crowded up close to the Balloon to ask Fool Questions. They wanted to know how fur up he Calkilated to go and was he Afeerd and how often had he did it. The Professor answered them in the Surly Manner peculiar to Showmen accustomed to meet a Web-Foot Population. On the Q.T. the Professor had Troubles of his own. He was expected to drop in at a Bank on the following Day and take up a Note for 100 Plunks. The Ascension meant 50 to him, but how to Corral the other 50? That was the Hard One.
This question was in his Mind as he took hold of the Trapeze Bar and signaled the Farm Hands to let go. As he trailed Skyward beneath the buoyant silken Bag he hung by his knees and waved a glad Adieu to the Mob of Inquisitive Yeomen. A Sense of Relief came to him as he saw the Crowd sink away in the Distance.
Hanging by one Toe, and with his right Palm pressed to his Eyes, he said: "Now that I am Alone, let me Think, let me Think."
There in the Vast Silence He Thought.
Presently he gave a sigh of Relief.
"I will go to my Wife's Brother and make a Quick Touch," he said. "If he refuses to Unbelt I will threaten to tell his wife of the bracelet he bought in Louisville."
Having reached this Happy Conclusion, he loosened the Parachute and quickly descended to the Earth.

MORAL: Avoid Crowds.

--George Ade, Fables in Slang (1899)

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    Physics Cocktails

    • Heavy G
      The perfect pick-me-up when gravity gets you down.
      2 oz Tequila
      2 oz Triple sec
      2 oz Rose's sweetened lime juice
      7-Up or Sprite
      Mix tequila, triple sec and lime juice in a shaker and pour into a margarita glass. (Salted rim and ice are optional.) Top off with 7-Up/Sprite and let the weight of the world lift off your shoulders.
    • Listening to the Drums of Feynman
      The perfect nightcap after a long day struggling with QED equations.
      1 oz dark rum
      1/2 oz light rum
      1 oz Tia Maria
      2 oz light cream
      Crushed ice
      1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
      In a shaker half-filled with ice, combine the dark and light rum, Tia Maria, and cream. Shake well. Strain into an old fashioned glass almost filled with crushed ice. Dust with the nutmeg, and serve. Bongos optional.
    • Combustible Edison
      Electrify your friends with amazing pyrotechnics!
      2 oz brandy
      1 oz Campari
      1 oz fresh lemon juice
      Combine Campari and lemon juice in shaker filled with cracked ice. Shake and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Heat brandy in chafing dish, then ignite and pour into glass. Cocktail Go BOOM! Plus, Fire = Pretty!
    • Hiroshima Bomber
      Dr. Strangelove's drink of choice.
      3/4 Triple sec
      1/4 oz Bailey's Irish Cream
      2-3 drops Grenadine
      Fill shot glass 3/4 with Triple Sec. Layer Bailey's on top. Drop Grenadine in center of shot; it should billow up like a mushroom cloud. Remember to "duck and cover."
    • Mad Scientist
      Any mad scientist will tell you that flames make drinking more fun. What good is science if no one gets hurt?
      1 oz Midori melon liqueur
      1-1/2 oz sour mix
      1 splash soda water
      151 proof rum
      Mix melon liqueur, sour mix and soda water with ice in shaker. Shake and strain into martini glass. Top with rum and ignite. Try to take over the world.
    • Laser Beam
      Warning: may result in amplified stimulated emission.
      1 oz Southern Comfort
      1/2 oz Amaretto
      1/2 oz sloe gin
      1/2 oz vodka
      1/2 oz Triple sec
      7 oz orange juice
      Combine all liquor in a full glass of ice. Shake well. Garnish with orange and cherry. Serve to attractive target of choice.
    • Quantum Theory
      Guaranteed to collapse your wave function:
      3/4 oz Rum
      1/2 oz Strega
      1/4 oz Grand Marnier
      2 oz Pineapple juice
      Fill with Sweet and sour
      Pour rum, strega and Grand Marnier into a collins glass. Add pineapple and fill with sweet and sour. Sip until all the day's super-positioned states disappear.
    • The Black Hole
      So called because after one of these, you have already passed the event horizon of inebriation.
      1 oz. Kahlua
      1 oz. vodka
      .5 oz. Cointreau or Triple Sec
      .5 oz. dark rum
      .5 oz. Amaretto
      Pour into an old-fashioned glass over (scant) ice. Stir gently. Watch time slow.