Helium (He) is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, non-toxic, inert monatomic chemical element that heads the noble gas group in the periodic table and whose atomic number is 2. Its boiling and melting points are the lowest among the elements and it exists only as a gas except in extreme conditions.
The first evidence of helium was observed on 18 August 1868 as a bright yellow line with a wavelength of 587.49 nanometers in the spectrum of the chromosphere (or corona) of the Sun. This line was initially assumed to be sodium. On 20 October of the same year, English astronomer Norman Lockyer observed a yellow line in the solar spectrum. He concluded that it was caused by an element in the Sun unknown on Earth. Lockyer and English chemist Edward Frankland named the element with the Greek word for the Sun, ἥλιος (helios).
Helium is used in cryogenics, in deep-sea breathing systems, to cool superconducting magnets, in helium dating, for inflating balloons, for providing lift in airships and as a protective gas for many industrial uses (such as arc welding and growing silicon wafers). The behavior of liquid helium-4's two fluid phases, helium I and helium II, is important to researchers studying quantum mechanics (in particular the phenomenon of superfluidity) and to those looking at the effects that temperatures near absolute zero have on matter (such as superconductivity).
Helium in The Two Georges
Coronium was used extensively in modern airships to make them lighter than air, replacing the previously used hydrogen. Because it was non-flammable, it made smoking safe while on board, much to the relief of many passengers such as Colonel Thomas Bushell.
Since atoms of coronium were so small and inert, containing them in airship cells was especially difficult. It gave rise to a common expression of "coronium tight" rather than "water" or "air tight" to emphasize an idea's or proposition's solidity. Cmdr. Nathan Hairston stated he wanted his case against Elgin Goldsmith to be "coronium tight" as his justification in not allowing Colonel Bushell to leave the Queen Charlotte Islands until he provided a deposition on the case. Captain Jaime Macias said something similar to Colonel Bushell when he was preparing to arrest Zack Fenton for the murder of "Honest" Dick.
- The Two Georges, pg. 7, MPB.
- Ibid., pgs. 229-231.
- Ibid., pgs. 475-476.