|Helium. The funny gas. Via Wikimedia Commons, |
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Hello there, random person who’s interested in science! This series is about the different elements in the periodic table and what they can be used for. First, let’s start with helium. The symbol for helium is He. Here is a helium joke: “I always thought the funniest element was helium. He He He.”
A helium atom has two protons in its center and two electrons orbiting it. It also has two noncharged particles, or neutrons. The two electrons are the maximum that the first electron orbital of an atom can hold, so helium is chemically stable and doesn’t react with other atoms. Another joke about helium: Two atoms of helium walk into a bar. The bartender says, “We don’t serve your kind here.” The heliums don’t react. Ha!
Helium is never found in a solid form. It only can be a gas or a liquid. Helium is a liquid from [Ed. correction] -273* C to around -269* C. It can be found in incredible abundance on gas giants like Jupiter or Saturn, and all stars, including our Sun.
A special kind of helium, called Helium-3, is strangely lacking a neutron but could, in theory, be a never-ending power-source. Go to Starts With a Bang to find out more about helium.
Liquid helium that is supercooled is known as a “superfluid” because liquid helium at a very low temperature (below 2 K, or Kelvin) can do a lot of strange things like seep through microscopic cracks, as shown in the video below [Chemistry editor’s note: The video also suggests that it could make a fountain that could, in the right conditions, go on forever, but there are no right conditions for that].