[Beowulf] Servers Too Hot? Intel Recommends a Luxurious Oil Bath

Robert G. Brown rgb at phy.duke.edu
Tue Sep 4 11:50:05 PDT 2012

On Tue, 4 Sep 2012, John Hearns wrote:

> As this article points out, helium is a finite resource. If all teams
> were using it, there would
> be no advantage to any one team and it would be wasteful of a resource.
> If I'm nto wrong the US Government holds the biggest stock of helium,
> somewhere in a salt some in Texas.
> And not more of it is being produced in the world.

I agree, mostly.  It's a shame to waste it on kids' balloons.  One day
it may well be nuclear fusion fuel and we'll regret the fact that we
could have run our air conditioner for an entire year using the fuel in
junior's birthday balloon (although He4-He4 fusion is actually not a
permitted/likely reaction, and the triple-alpha reaction is almost
certainly far beyond the reach of any plausible fusion reactor on

My mild disagreement comes from the observation that helium is
constantly being produced by alpha decay of actinides e.g. radium or
uranium (and, along with hydrogen, constantly being lost at the top of
the atmosphere).  It can be mined out of things like natural gas (where
it probably got there via outgassing of helium from rock, where it might
well have gotten into the rock by alpha decay).

But it is cheap, nevertheless -- cheap enough to give it away at harris
teeter in the balloon corral.  Probably cheaper than any oil one might
use to oil cool a cluster.  Should it be wasted on this?  Probably not.
Will it be wasted even worse if it isn't?  So far, yet.  It just isn't
GOOD for much at this point aside from balloons and donald duck voices.


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Robert G. Brown	                       http://www.phy.duke.edu/~rgb/
Duke University Dept. of Physics, Box 90305
Durham, N.C. 27708-0305
Phone: 1-919-660-2567  Fax: 919-660-2525     email:rgb at phy.duke.edu

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