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The Life Cycle of a Little Red Balloon
"Each year millions of innocent balloons are created, inflated, used frivolously, casually destroyed, then heartlessly discarded. Are you versed in the technological and ecological issues of balloon manufacture? (Warning: some humorous content.)"
15 Points Per Correct Answer - No time limit
Our balloon's story begins when a milky white drop falls from a lacerated rubber tree into a waiting cup. Latex is being procured for use in the manufacture of a latex balloon. How do contemporary balloon producers describe the process by which raw material for the manufacture of latex is obtained?
A thin layer of bark is carefully shaved from a rubber tree and a small cup left underneath the cut to collect the milky white fluid that exudes from the unharmed tree.
Small bamboo tubes are thrust through the living bark into the vital cambium layer to extract the latex rich sap. Repeated "taps" first interfere with growth; and after several months, the exploited trees die.
Metal taps are cruelly inserted deep into the trunk of a rubber tree at multiple sites. The latex rich living sap is sucked into receptacles. The tree soon dies and is left to rot.
Virgin bamboo forests in Brazil are ruthlessly clear-cut. The entire tree is ground into bits and compressed to squeeze out latex rich fluid.
Into a large pool of red latex, the balloon shaped fingers dip in and out, receiving a coating of latex. Earlier in the process, these fingers are dipped into a coagulant so that the latex adheres. This coagulant might include any except which of the following?
Our little red balloon is packaged and sent to a florist. The florist roughly forces the balloon opening over the nipple of a helium tank and clamps down on the balloon neck. The balloon is forcibly engorged with helium to near bursting. Secured to a ribbon tied around the balloon's neck, the little red balloon is left floating in the midst of a balloon bouquet. If the balloon is not sold, will it still be floating in 48 hours?
A satisfied customer carries our little red balloon out of the florist's shop. A strong gust of wind dislodges it from its ribbon tether. The happy little balloon floats free in the breeze! But which (if any) of these ecological hazards have freely floating balloons been proven to pose?
None of these
Free-floating balloons have lured away bee swarms, depleting hive populations.
Free-floating balloons have injured migratory waterfowl.
The millions of released balloons have caused significant atmospheric ozone depletion.
In addition to considering what ecological hazards a free-floating balloon might pose, there might be dangers to humans and human property as well. Which of the following damaging effects have free-floating balloons been shown to cause?
In 1961, near Roswell, New Mexico, an Army Helicopter crashed when a stray floating balloon became entangled in its rotor.
None of these
In 1967, a floating balloon picked up on radar triggered a Norad missile launch.
In 2003, a balloon floated into a nuclear power plant, jammed a reactor fuel rod and required an emergency shutdown of the reactor.
Our little red balloon is drifting in the breeze but rising steadily. Based on National Weather Service data, what altitude would our amazingly buoyant 11-inch, intact, helium-filled balloon typically reach?
Based on data supplied by the National Weather Service and on laboratory studies, what is thought to be the fate of most of the millions of latex balloons released both deliberately and accidentally each year?
The balloon floats and is carried about by prevailing winds until encountering a natural or man-made object which pops it.
The balloon rises until falling atmospheric pressure results in a degree of expansion of the balloon that causes the stretched and now frozen rubber of the balloon to burst into numerous small fragments.
The balloon floats until enough helium has diffused out for it to sink back to earth in an intact, single piece.
Atmospheric ozone at higher altitudes decomposes the latex. Ultimately a small hole develops causing the balloon to deflate and fall back to earth.
Our little red helium balloon has burst, and its fragments are now plummeting toward the ground. Which of the following have been documented to have occurred as the result of falling balloon fragments?
Injury to small terrestrial animals on which the fragments fall
Snapping of power lines
None of these
Injury to migrating waterfowl
The deflated remains of our unfortunate little red balloon have come to rest on a pile of oak leaves. Which of the following best describes the future of the remnants of our balloon?
The balloon fragments will eventually degrade but long after the leaves are entirely decomposed. The tree, however, will still be standing.
The balloon will decompose much faster than the oak leaves.
Treated latex is nearly inert chemically. The entire tree will have died and decomposed centuries before the balloon ultimately degrades.
The balloon and the oak leaves will biodegrade at roughly the same rate.
A heavy rainstorm washes our balloon fragments into a stream, and the stream carries them into the ocean before they have a chance to begin to decompose. Which of the following is true regarding oceanic balloon fragments?
In 1997 the Discovery channel presented a case of intestinal obstruction in a whale. A balloon fragment was shown to have caused the obstruction.
Pamela Plotkin of the University of Texas Marine Science concluded that balloon pieces were the cause of death in 6% of autopsied sea turtles.
Cathy Beck published a study showing that balloons were involved in the deaths of more than 800 sea cows examined over an eight-year period.
All of these
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Compiled Nov 29 12