Friday, April 13, 2012

Don't Count on this to Float Your Boat

Or your balloon. 

This pin went around boards very quickly. Most of the pins I saw had a caption that ran something like this:
"No helium needed to fill balloons for parties." People saw it, pinned it, and saved it for later...many thinking that this trick would make filled floating balloons. 

The Original Pin
I pinned it to my "To Test" board so I wouldn't forget it for later. I didn't even look at the original source until days later to see what gas they were creating and how. When I finally did open up the blog and read the ingredients...I knew someone somewhere along the line hadn't read the post completely when they pinned it as an alternative to Helium. This was a science experiment for kids to learn about gasses, not a development of a alternative to Helium. The gas created is Carbon Dioxide...which doesn't make balloons float.

The blog author states this in her post:
** Due to lots of comments left below I feel the need to add (for clarity) that this does NOT produce helium. Carbon Dioxide gas will inflate the balloons but they do not "fly" like helium inflated balloons as it is not the same kind of gas. This is meant to be a fun science experiment/demonstration. **

So I knew that this pin would work perfectly as described in the original blog post, but it wouldn't work at all with the description I saw on so many pins. Here...I'll show you.

The Pinstrosity

There's the set up. The bottle with the vinegar, and the balloon with the baking soda. 

Tip the balloon upright to dump the baking soda in the vinegar and Carbon Dioxide gas is produced, which does indeed fill the balloon:

And that was the point of the original show the formation and properties of gas. But a pinner tweaked it and people pinned it to their boards thinking the balloons would float. 

They don't float. CO2 is heavier than the air we breathe. 

So the moral of this story? There's a few. 

  • As Mom to 2 Posh Lil Divas stated...CO2 will be formed, but it DOES NOT float. 
  • Read. Read. Read. I think we're all conditioning ourselves to text messages, tweets, statuses, etc. and anything longer we just blow off. Don't be afraid of reading. It's great stuff!
  • Don't take the descriptions on every pin as the gospel truth. Check into things before you get too excited. 
So I'm rating this a Level 4 on the GCT Scale since it failed as to the pin description, but if we were rating it by how it worked according to the original source, it'd be a perfect piece of toast with raspberry jam.


  1. CO2 balloons are kind of cool to play with! They sink faster than an air-filled balloon does. At a party of ours once, we had some helium balloons, and an air-filled balloon, and a CO2 balloon (which we filled from our club soda machine -- I had never seen the bottle/kitchen chemistry approach before -- cool!) and they were fun to play with and compare. Yes, we have geeky parties.

  2. Can I say thanks! I am Bern of Mom to 2 Posh Lil Divas and I love what you had to say about reading the posts we pin. I can not tell you how many emails and comments I get about helium and balloons not floating from this pin when I NEVER once said we produced helium or that the balloons would float. I laugh out loud at some of the things that have been sent to me - like "Thanks for ruining my party." Uhm, I didn;t ruin your party - I had a great time doing a science experiment with my girls that I shared - that is all. The rest had nothing to do with me.

    I appreciate you mentioning that the actual intention for the pin does work - that's what it's supposed to be about.

    Loving your site and I am tickled at having been given the honor of being posted about here :) Now if only more people read my actual post......

  3. After having some security concerns over the use of hydrogen to fill the balloons, the inflated helium balloons came into the fore.
    The helium gas is much safer to use and has one-tenth the lifting power of the hydrogen gas.


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