On last night's Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert talked about helium and its surprising disappearance from the Earth. Despite being the second most abundant element in the universe, helium is quickly being depleted on Earth, and will soon be lost forever.

With the Federal Helium Reserve soon exhausting its supply, the world will lose its source for more than a third of the Earth's helium. Besides balloons and zeppelins, helium actually has many useful applications for "NASA and the Defense Department as well as in medical research and computer chip production," as this article notes


For instance, MRI scanners, solar telescopes, and rockets all rely, in part, on helium. With recycling it not economically worthwhile and the price low enough for people to use it rapidly, helium's days are numbered. And to top off matters, as Rasika Dias of the University of Texas at Arlington said, "Once it's used up, it's gone... What we have is what we have."

At least it means the end of those flying deathtraps.