Hello everyone, and thanks for the responses
To answer some of the questions asked, yes I used exactly the equipment claimed in the news reports.
I had to do a good deal of research to figure out just what that equipment was though, I'll explain as briefly as possible...
There are two main types of Helium Balloons available for sale to the everyday person. Granted you could order a weather balloon, but that's not
what was claimed in this case. The two types of Balloons available to the average consumer are Mylar and Latex.
There are major differences in these two Balloon Types.
1) Uninflated weight - A Mylar Balloon is much lighter uninflated than a Latex Balloon of the same diameter. Mylar is used for party balloons because
it is lightweight, and it requires less helium to obtain self lift than a Latex Balloon of the same diameter. So so far, one would think that a Mylar
Balloon would be the right choice for this experiment. (I disagree, please read further)
2) Cost - A Mylar Balloon costs more than a Latex Balloon of the same diameter. Latex (the balloons that feel like 'rubber', and are stretchy)
Balloons are cheap and easy to mass produce. The color is mixed into the Latex, as opposed to a Mylar Balloon that usually has an external logo or
design imprinted on the face of the fabric. This means that even if Mylar were the proper choice (which it isn't IMHO) the cost of the experiment
(or the original hoax) would increase dramatically.
3) Internal Volume - This is the kicker. Mylar Balloons are made by cutting two equal sized sheets of Mylar (usually into a circle) and ironing the
two together to create a sealed balloon. Latex Balloons are made to expand, whereas a Mylar Balloon has a fixed maximum volume due to it's design.
This means that a Mylar Balloon cannot hold as much weight (payload) due to it's inferior internal volume (capacity of Helium, providing lift) when
compared with a Latex Balloon of the same diameter.
In the simplest terms possible, a Latex Balloon is the better choice because it holds more helium than a Mylar Balloon of the same diameter.
So from there I did the Math to obtain the required volume to produce enough lift to carry the required payload (a road flare weighing 363 grams or
.8lbs. As demonstrated in above posts, the required balloon diameter is supposedly 36 inches, or 3 ft. This should provide 14.1 cubic feet of
internal volume (containing helium) which will lift .9 lbs (.1lb more than theoretically needed).
Right there I knew that the Math and a real world test would differ here. I've done a lot of work with building my own RC Blimps (a few years ago)
and from experience in that research and development process I know that the closer you get to the tolerance (the maximum amount of weight the balloon
can lift) the less 'actual lift' the system will have. Meaning in laymans' terms that the system will rise more slowly, and sometimes not at all,
even before the mathematical limit on paper.
But I decided to test the system anyway, because the math could have been correct in a real world application. So to make sure, I had the woman at
the Balloon store inflate my balloon to it's maximum capacity. I pushed her past her comfort level, and we really got that balloon inflated.
Anyway, back to the determining factors for the experiment, I next did some online shopping, and phone call verifications, to ascertain what Balloons
are available commercially in Phoenix.
The largest sized latex balloon available was 36 inches, or 3 ft in diameter, perfect for this experiment, and the largest balloon one could buy.
I then found a dealer here in LA with the same product, and commenced the testing.
The road flare was weighed firsthand by myself on a postal scale.
I did capture the system on video, and in the wind, where the flare never left the ground but was pulled along it.
I have never posted anything to Youtube before, and I'm extremely busy today at work, but I will do my best this evening to set up an account there
and post the video of the testing. It's just a few short clips of the system in action, and it was filmed on the same cybershot still camera (does
video too) that the above pictures were taken on. So I can't guarantee it to be the best quality video ever. I will post it though as soon as I get
time to do so.
The Balloon I used is now destroyed, unfortunately. At the shop I referenced earlier one of our executives brought his kid to work that day (you may
see the kid in one of the video clips). He was playing with the balloon while I was busy working, and he popped it.
At any rate, anyone who wants to recreate the experiment again should do the following:
1) Purchase your flare from Kragen Auto Parts, they are the cheapest $2.99
2) You can get fishing line for free at the Balloon store, I made the mistake of buying my own and then having it anyway for free
3) Your Balloon should cost around $6.00, and the Helium to fill it will cost around $25.00 (mine was $24 and change)
4) You do not need
to ever light the flare to test this system. If you plan to light the flare, please don't launch
the balloon, and
if you must recreate the entire experiment, please contact your local fire department
and coordinate your efforts with them.
I hope I've answered everyone's questions. I'll do my best to get that video up this evening. It's on my home computer so I have to wait till
tonight to get to it.