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Separate article for Helium shortage?[edit]

Perhaps helium shortage deserves to be its own article? It is a temporal issue separate from the timeless nature of the element itself. It has been in scientific news for some time. Tayste (edits) 01:39, 9 February 2016 (UTC)

Yes, I think there may be enough for a subarticle here. I would also note that the oversupply of helium is somewhat of an American thing, because most sources are located there. Elsewhere, the problem was already bad enough in the 1980s that Greenwood and Earnshaw wrote that outside the USA, argon was almost always used when helium was not absolutely indispensable. Double sharp (talk) 14:49, 2 November 2016 (UTC)
We have created a page close to this topic: Maybe it would be of interest to link to this page.J. A. Buitendijk (talk) 17:09, 19 June 2017 (UTC)

Large Helium Field Found in East Africa[edit]

Should mention be made of the recent (June 2016) discover of a huge field of Helium in east Africa? (talk) 00:13, 29 July 2016 (UTC) Dave

Seems like it belongs in the article. Grammar's Li'l Helper Talk 06:37, 29 July 2016 (UTC)
It's already mentioned once, with a reference, at the end of lead. Nitpicking polish (talk) 15:24, 2 August 2016 (UTC)
Twice, actually, and I've slightly cleaned up the reference later in the article. Nitpicking polish (talk) 18:10, 2 August 2016 (UTC)
I think this is not worth to be mentioned in the lead, we should mention it in the later section. Why is a reference necessary in the lead is it contntroversial?--Stone (talk) 20:24, 2 August 2016 (UTC)
I agree. I've rephrased the paragraph in the lead to get what seems to be the basic point: it's rare and easily lost, but it's probably not as rare as was recently thought. The important thing about the Tanzanian reference in this context is as an example of a new way of finding potential reserves. Nitpicking polish (talk) 21:04, 2 August 2016 (UTC)
The articles reporting the Tanzanian find as a "game-changer" appear somewhat sensationalist. If my maths is right, this is a new reserve of 1.5 billion cubic metres, compared with the estimated 40 billion cubic metres of reserves as of 2011. The U.S. Geological Survey data indicates a peak US usage of around 15,000 tonnes per year, equivalent to about 84 million cubic metres per year. In addressing US demand, the Tanzanian field adds about 18 years of reserves to the 470 years worth of reserves in 2011. Scale down by whatever factor for worldwide consumption.
I agree that the Tanzanian find is not significant enough to warrant a piece in the lead. I do, however, think that the sort of basic analysis I've done (simple maths required) ought to feature somewhere in the article to establish some context for these sort of reports. At the very least can we find a reliable source for an estimate of worldwide consumption?
Conversions: 1 tonne of helium = 5,600 cubic metres; 1 cubic foot = 0.0283168 cubic metres. --RexxS (talk) 21:32, 2 August 2016 (UTC)
Reading generously, the "game-changer" is the new approach to finding reserves based on volcanic activity.
Yes, a clear (sourced) comparison of usage, the various reserves, and the actual production (all in the same units) would be great. Nitpicking polish (talk) 01:24, 3 August 2016 (UTC)

Discovered by Janssen or Lockyer?[edit]

The title is self-explanatory. While both are credited with the discovery, if only one of the two could be credited, who would it be? Squee3 (talk) 23:56, 14 January 2017 (UTC)

What kind of situation would force only one to be credited? Discovery is not like the Nobel Prize which cannot be awarded to more than four people. Double sharp (talk) 09:50, 16 January 2017 (UTC)

Error regarding alternative helium production method[edit]

In the penultimate paragraph of "Modern extraction and distribution", there's the erroneous statement, "Helium can be synthesized by bombardment of lithium or boron with high-velocity protons, but this process is a completely uneconomic method of production.[102]". Reference [102] specifies that "ions of the heavy isotope of hydrogen" are the bullets in these synthesis reactions, not protons. Therefore the word "protons" in the text should be replaced with "deuterons". There are several links at [102], and the relevant one can be reached directly at

Sorry, I currently have no permission to change the article myself, so can somebody else make this change? Mike Pelizzari (talk) 21:30, 30 January 2017 (UTC)

Thanks for spotting this Mike Pelizzari, but the source is titled "A Photographic Investigation of the Transmutation of Lithium and Boron by Protons and of Lithium by Ions of the Heavy Isotope of Hydrogen" and the authors discuss both using both protons and deuterons. Nevertheless our article failed to mention deuterons – as you rightly pointed out – so I've made an edit to that sentence which hopefully meets with your approval. --RexxS (talk) 02:10, 31 January 2017 (UTC)

Usage & recycling[edit]

I think it would be useful to have more info and clarification about usage and recycling. For example the difference between helium being 'used' by being 'in use' in a superconducting magnet and being 'used up' (no longer available for human use) having been released into the atmosphere.

This might be useful to follow up on: "Recycling: In the United States, helium used in large-volume applications is seldom recycled. Some low-volume or liquid boil-off recovery systems are used. In the rest of the world, helium recycling is practiced more often." in [1] which is linked from [2] (which is linked from [3]). FrankSier (talk) 20:08, 5 March 2017 (UTC)

Semi-protected edit request on 9 March 2017[edit]

Remove the bit about the "preventing impending helium shortages" in the USA. This is not of global importance. (talk) 01:59, 9 March 2017 (UTC)

Not done. We try to avoid being US-centric, but the US is of global importance, and the existence of the National Helium Reserve is noteworthy in the context of the article. El_C 02:16, 9 March 2017 (UTC)
The article itself states in the Occurence section: "As of 2011 the world's helium reserves were estimated at 40 billion cubic meters, with a quarter of that being in the South Pars / North Dome Gas-Condensate field owned jointly by Qatar and Iran.[92]" This is 10 times more than what is held in the US helium reserve, and wasn't important enough to get mentioned in the introduction. I appreciate that this is probably an important fact here on English Wikipedia and it deserves a mention, but certainly not an awkward repetition in the introduction. (talk) 02:09, 11 March 2017 (UTC)
Done — Train2104 (t • c) 05:27, 24 March 2017 (UTC)

Janssen did not discover helium[edit]

Although a great many sources claim that French astronomer Pierre Jules César Janssen observed the spectral D3 line of helium during the solar eclipse of 18 August 1895, those claims are false.

Both a French scholar (Françoise Launay) and an American author (Wheeler Sears) have investigated this claim and found no evidence that Janssen either recognized the D3 spectral line or suggested that that spectral line revealed the presence of a new element. See:

  • Françoise Launay with Storm Dunlop, trans., The Astronomer Jules Janssen: A Globetrotter of Celestial Physics (Heidelberg, Germany: Springer, 2012), p. 45.
  • Wheeler M. Sears, Helium: The Disappearing Element (Heidelberg, Germany: Springer, 2015), p. 44.

The communication in which Janssen presented, to the French Academy of Sciences, his findings of the 18 August 1868 solar eclipse is:

In order to eliminate any doubt whatsoever that Janssen did not mention the D3 line of helium in that communication, here is my translation of it:

"Physical Astronomy — Information on some of the results obtained at Cocanada, during the eclipse of the month of last August, and following that eclipse. Letter from Mr. Janssen to the perpetual Secretary.

Cocanada, 19 September 1868.

At this moment I'm at Guntoor, my observation station for the eclipse, and I'm benefiting from the imminent departure of the post in order to give the Academy news of my mission, which it has done me the honor of conferring on me.

I lack the time to send a detailed report; I will have the honor of doing that by the next post. For now, I will merely summarize the main results obtained.

The Guntoor station was undoubtedly the most favorable: the sky was fine, especially during totality, and my powerful telescopes with a focus of almost 3-meters allowed me to pursue the analytical study of all the phenomena of the eclipse.

Immediately after totality, two magnificent protuberances appeared; one of them, more than 3 minutes in height, shone with a splendor that is difficult to imagine. The analysis of its light showed me immediately that it was formed by an immense column of incandescent gas, mainly composed of hydrogen gas.

The analysis of the circumsolar regions, where Mr. Kirchoff locates the solar atmosphere, did not produce results consistent with the theory formulated by this illustrious physicist; these results, it seems to me, should lead to a knowledge of the true constitution of the solar spectrum.

But the most important result of these observations is the discovery of a method, whose principle was conceived during the same eclipse, and which permits the study of the protuberances and of the circumsolar regions at all times, without its being necessary to resort to the interposition of an opaque body in front of the disc of the Sun. This method is based on the spectral properties of the protuberances' light, light which is resolved into a small number of very bright beams, corresponding to the dark rays of the solar spectrum.

The day after the eclipse, the method was applied with success, and I could see phenomena presented by a new eclipse which lasted all day. The protuberances of the previous day were profoundly changed. There remained hardly any traces of the great protuberances, and the distribution of gaseous material was quite different.

Since that day, until October 4th, I have constantly studied the Sun in this regard. I have drafted images of the protuberances, which show with what rapidity (often in [only] some minutes) these immense gaseous masses are deformed and are moved. Finally, during this period, which has been like an eclipse of 17 days, I collected a great number of facts, which revealed themselves, on the physical constitution of the Sun.

I am pleased to offer these results to the Academy and to the Bureau of Longitude, in order to repay the confidence that has been shown me and the honor that has been done me by confiding to me this important mission."

Since Janssen did not mention the D3 line and did not state that he had found a new element — and since two independent authors (Launay and Sears) agree with that conclusion — I propose to delete from this article the claim that Janssen discovered helium.

VexorAbVikipædia (talk) 18:06, 1 May 2017 (UTC)

You can't use the lack of information in your source to prove a negative. The two sources already in the article make it clear that Janssen had discovered the D3 line and recognised that the element was not sodium.
  • "Janssen made a significant discovery. The yellow line which everybody had mistakenly thought to be that of sodium had to belong to some other element."
  • "When he observed a line in the corona spectrum at a wavelength of 587.49 nanometres, he knew that a hitherto unknown element was present."
If you feel that the conjectures of Launay and Sears are sufficiently well accepted in the mainstream to be worth mentioning in the article, then by all means propose some text that you believe should be included. I don't think, though, that there is any case for deleting the claim that Janssen discovered helium as it's simply too well attested in so many sources, a a quick Google search will show you. --RexxS (talk) 21:32, 1 May 2017 (UTC)
From what I understand and remember, Janssen was the first to see the line, while Lockyer was the first to recognise it as belonging to a new element. (And then later began yet another craze of finding nonexistent new elements, some of which turned out to be interesting highly charged ions.) Given the tremendous variety found in element discoveries, I do not think a one-size-fits-all measure of priority would do justice to the situation; as I think the IUPAP/IUPAC TWG remarked, an absolute priority would often equate to an absolute injustice. No, far better would be to go with the discoverers reliable sources state, and then state their respective contributions, at least IMHO. Double sharp (talk) 22:57, 1 May 2017 (UTC)
Yes, I can indeed use a lack of information to prove a negative. If "Double sharp" claimed that he had discovered helium, I would ask him, "Where is the evidence?" "Double sharp" can't answer, "Although there is no evidence that I discovered helium, lots of people say otherwise." Sorry, but you must provide evidence that Janssen observed the D3 line. As Janssen's own communication reveals, he didn't provide any such evidence. You say that many, many sources say that he did observe it, and that's correct. But if you actually examine those sources (as I have), you will make a shocking discovery: not a single one of them provides a citation showing exactly where Janssen stated that he'd observed the D3 line. Not one source provides a citation. None. Because none exists.
I should add that I've encountered this situation before. In Wikipedia's article on "glasses" (eyeglasses), many, many sources stated that "Salvino D'Armati" invented eyeglasses. There's even a bust of him in an Italian church, proclaiming him as the inventor of eyeglasses. I found references that revealed "Salvino D'Armati" as a fiction, a hoax. Vast numbers of references were wrong. Similarly, in thermodynamics there's a result that's called the "Gibbs–Thomson equation". There's even a Wikipedia article on it. I checked to determine where Gibbs or Thomson had stated the equation. They hadn't. The equation was derived independently by an Austrian physicist (Ries) and a German physical chemist (Meissner). The equation is named after people who didn't discover it. So, is it possible for everyone else to be wrong? Yes, it's happened to me before. In fact, it's quite common. Professor X sends his grad' student to do historical research in the library. The student copies what he finds in books and papers, without checking original sources. So the errors of the previous generation are propagated into the next generation. I have found cases (e.g., in the case of the discovery of the sugar lactose) where errors were propagated for almost 300 years.
Do what I did: check any of those sources that claim that Janssen observed the D3 line, and look for a citation from Janssen's works. You won't find any such citation because it doesn't exist. VexorAbVikipædia (talk) 00:38, 2 May 2017 (UTC)
You will also find the interesting thing that even Lockyer was not so sure that he had found a new element: he only used the word "helium" once in his scientific papers, and speculated that the Fraunhofer D3 line might be due to hydrogen instead: see John Hearnshaw's Astronomical Spectrographs and Their History, p. 98. Not until Ramsay's isolation of terrestrial helium and his demonstration that the D3 line occurs in its spectrum was everything cleared up and the name of helium popularised. If one insists on assigning discovery Z by Z, clearly only Ramsay satisfies the criteria: he alone was sure that he had discovered a new element and was right. But clearly he could not have done this without Lockyer's earlier work following Janssen's technique, and even if they either failed to claim the new element (Janssen) or did so unconvincingly and in an unconvinced manner (Lockyer), their contributions should be noted and put into perspective. FWIW, I would support listing Ramsay as discoverer with the usual historical narrative mentioned and analysed following your account of research into the matter by reliable sources. Double sharp (talk) 00:58, 2 May 2017 (UTC)
@VexorAbVikipædia: Actually, you really can't use a lack of evidence to prove a negative. But more importantly I don't have to prove jack-shit. The sources are there which say Janssen discovered helium. You could ask all the authors of the sources "where's your proof?", but you haven't. Nobody cares how many times you've encountered this situation. You don't get to do your amateur analysis of sources and decide that they are wrong. Feel free to get your research published in a good quality journal and then we can take a look at it. In the meantime whatever errors might or might not exist in sources matters not one jot. We have the sources that say something and that's what we report. If you want to suggest additional text based on what Launay and Sears believe, feel free to suggest some wording, otherwise, please don't waste other editors' time here – Wikipedia isn't a place to publish your own research. --RexxS (talk) 01:36, 2 May 2017 (UTC)
Yes, Double sharp's statements about Lockyer are true: they can be substantiated by references to his own work. However, the claims about Janssen can't be substantiated by references to his own work. No one ever provides a citation of his work to show that he observed the D3 line. In reply to RexxS, I have cited at least 2 sources that state that Janssen didn't discover helium or even distinguish its D3 line. How many sources are required to refute a large number of erroneous sources? What qualifies as refutation? To argue that "whatever errors might or might not exist in sources matters not one jot. We have the sources that say something and that's what we report." is frankly frightening. It means that evidence isn't necessary for something to be "true"; rather, the "truth" is whatever is the majority's opinion, even if the majority has no evidence to substantiate that opinion. If a majority of physicists believe that electromagnetic waves propagate through the ether, then that must be true — because the majority believes it to be true.
In this article, the work of Lockyer and Palmieri can legitimately cited because it can be documented that they observed actual, physical evidence of helium; namely, a spectral line that couldn't be attributed to any other known element. Janssen didn't do that. As Sears showed, other observers at the time did notice what appears to have been the D3 line. They therefore deserve more recognition than Janssen.
Would the administrators of Wikipedia at least allow me to mention that there's a dispute about whether Janssen discovered helium? Or that others observed what appears to have been the D3 line? VexorAbVikipædia (talk) 02:41, 2 May 2017 (UTC)
I would think that a few detailed sources that specifically study the matter at hand should outweigh many other less detailed ones that just throw in the discoverers: see actinium for instance, in another case where the usually acknowledged discoverer did not discover the element. I think it would be perfectly fine to say that Janssen did not actually see the line, even though he is usually credited; his place can of course be stated without calling him the discoverer. Lockyer's contribution should also be somewhat tempered by his lack of certainty about his new element. I understand where RexxS is coming from, because Wikipedia has to work on verifiability, but in this case the truth is verifiable and easily cited by primary and secondary sources, as you have demonstrated. Double sharp (talk) 05:19, 2 May 2017 (UTC)
I've already asked you to suggest some wording to incorporate those two sources, but you seem to want to ignore that. Here are eight sources that say Janssen discovered helium:
How many sources are required to rebut two dissenting sources? Who gave you the authority to decide that your two sources are correct and all the others are erroneous? To answer your questions: refutation of a fringe view occurs when the vast majority of mainstream sources disagree with the fringe view. As for your other concern, I don't care what frankly frightens you. Wikipedia has a fundamental policy, Wikipedia:Neutral point of view, "which means representing fairly, proportionately, and, as far as possible, without editorial bias, all of the significant views that have been published by reliable sources on a topic." That policy requires us not to take sides when two views disagree. So in response to Double sharp: no, VexorAbVikipædia has not demonstrated the Truth™, and we are in no position to arbitrate between differing claims. We simply have to report them. --RexxS (talk) 11:34, 2 May 2017 (UTC)
Well, I'm sorry to say that I have to slightly disagree with you on this one. Let's consider the discovery of actinium for instance, which is a similar case that I wrote on before on WP. Many, many sources talking about the elements in general, or perhaps even simply just reviewing the chemistries of the elements in general, will perfunctorily state that Debierne discovered Ac in 1899. And yet, if you look at sources that are actually focused on the discovery of actinium, you will see something quite different, for instance in this review by H. W. Kirby, repeated in his co-written chapter on Ac in The Chemistry of the Actinide and Transactinide Elements. I do not see why Kirby's carefully conducted research here should be outweighed by the multitude of sources parroting each other without properly looking up the details of discovery, which tend not to interest the scientists very much: they would rather do new work. The only exception I can think of where the majority of scientists were interested in reanalysing the historical record was for lutetium (which even got Niels Bohr involved), but was only because it was directly related to the then new controversy over who discovered the next element hafnium: the major crux in the discovery of element 72 was the purity of the supposed samples of element 71. As such, Actinium#History presents a balanced view of the subject: it notes that " now considered by the vast majority of historians as the discoverer", while it notes the problems with his results pointed out by Kirby, and credits Giesel's contribution while stopping short of crediting him as the discoverer.
The same is true for helium. For sure, many sources will say that Janssen was one of the discoverers of helium. But are they focused on the discovery of helium, or is that just one little entry that they need to get over with before going to their main focus, or just one little thing in a brief summary? And if that is the case, which certainly seems so with all your sources, why shouldn't detailed historical studies like those of Launay and Sears outweigh them? As such I would propose the following change: instead of saying "The line was detected by French astronomer Jules Janssen during a total solar eclipse in Guntur, India", it would be better to say that "It is often reported that the line was detected by French astronomer Jules Janssen during a total solar eclipse in Guntur, India, but detailed investigation of this claim by Françoise Launay and Wheeler Sears found no evidence that Janssen either recognized the D3 spectral line or suggested that that spectral line revealed the presence of a new element." Then the first clear date can be moved from 18 August (Janssen's non-discovery) to 20 October (Lockyer's), simultaneously acknowledging what the majority says while noting that detailed studies have noted that it is an error. So that would be a compromise saying that while most sources report that Janssen discovered He, some detailed examinations suggest that he probably didn't; how does that sound? Double sharp (talk) 11:52, 2 May 2017 (UTC)
It seems that both I and Wikipedia policy have to disagree with you. We have no mandate per WP:WEIGHT to decide which sources are right and which are wrong. This is what that policy says:
Neutrality requires that each article or other page in the mainspace fairly represent all significant viewpoints that have been published by reliable sources, in proportion to the prominence of each viewpoint in the published, reliable sources. <ref>The relative prominence of each viewpoint among Wikipedia editors or the general public is not relevant and should not be considered.</ref>
I don't think it can be any clearer than that. How about "The first evidence of helium was observed on August 18, 1868, as a bright yellow line with a wavelength of 587.49 nanometers in the spectrum of the chromosphere of the Sun. The line was detected by French astronomer Jules Janssen during a total solar eclipse in Guntur, India." referenced to any number of sources. I don't think there's any doubt that the first evidence was observed by Janssen (perhaps among others, but that's what the sources say). That could be followed by mention of the recent historical revisionism of Launay and Sears: "Recent historical studies suggest that Janssen did not claim the discovery of helium when reporting his observations." How does that sound? --RexxS (talk) 12:54, 2 May 2017 (UTC)
On the contrary, there is doubt that the first evidence was observed by Janssen at all. The recent historical studies (although I would hesitate to use the rather negatively charged word "revisionism" on them) suggest that Janssen did not see the D3 line, at least at first.
In fact, it seems that the crediting of Janssen as the discoverer of helium is the actual revisionism: if it was readily accepted, one would have thought that such an amazing achievement would have been reflected in his obituary. No, on the contrary, what he is credited for in the eclipse of 1868 is the technique for observing the prominence spectrum of the Sun, which Lockyer also independently invented at about the same time. They appeared as codiscoverers on the medal for this work, not for the discovery of helium: perhaps the confusion came from there, as only Lockyer claimed the new element, and that only somewhat half-heartedly until Ramsay isolated it on Earth.
I will note that Greenwood and Earnshaw, that great comprehensive inorganic chemistry tome, appear to have done their research: "During the solar eclipse of 18 August 1868, a new yellow line was observed close to the sodium D lines in the spectrum of the sun's chromosphere. This led J. N. Lockyer (founder in 1869 of the journal Nature) and E. Frankland to suggest the existence of a new element which, appropriately, they named helium (Greek ἤλιος, the sun). The same line was observed by L. Palmieri in 1881 in the spectrum of volcanic gas from Mount Vesuvius, and the terrestrial existence of helium was finally confirmed by W. Rmasay in the course of his intensive study of atmospheric gases which led to the recognition of a new group in the periodic table." So, now we have a third source, whose main goal is not historical revisionism. Double sharp (talk) 14:23, 2 May 2017 (UTC)

Hi, what would suffice to refute 2 dissident sources? A direct quote from a paper by Janssen in which he states something like: "While I was observing the eclipse of 1868, I noticed a yellow line near the Fraunhofer D lines." No one has provided such a quote. So there is no evidence that Janssen observed the D3 line of helium. Direct quotes can be provided for claims that the D3 line of helium was observed in 1868 by Georges Rayet, Captain C.T. Haig, Norman Pogson, and Lieutenant John Herschel. See (Sears, 2015), pp. 43-44. So, I will try to follow Double sharp's suggestions. However, I am aware that this is a featured article and no one (including me) wants to endanger that status. So any changes that I make, will be as restrained as possible. I will mention an unpublished letter from Janssen in which he mentions the Fraunhofer D line, so perhaps that will address the concerns of RexxS. I am interested in the truth, not in desecrating Wikipedia articles. VexorAbVikipædia (talk) 14:05, 2 May 2017 (UTC)

It seems that we have two separate consensuses among sources. Most sources that do not focus on the history of helium simply parrot the line that Janssen and Lockyer both discovered helium. On the other hand, every single source either of us have found focusing on this history agrees with what VexorAbVikipædia has stated, that only Lockyer had the courage to posit that a new element had been discovered. The Story of Helium and the Birth of Astrophysics by Biman B. Nath is particularly clear here: (p. 176) 'While Janssen was more preoccupied with the physical interpretation of the red flame phenomena, what seemed to have caught Lockyer's attention later was a remark in a report (probably Pogson's) that a yellow line might have been seen not wholly coincident with the position of the sodium D line. / It is not clear now how Pogson's name got mixed up in his mind with Janssen's name. He must have been impressed by Janssen's report of the bright line spectrum, because it was Janssen's name that stuck in his mind. What he seemed to have been remembered [sic] as a summary of the reports was that Janssen had seen a yellow line where it was not supposed be [sic]. Of course, Janssen never reported it, but Lockyer thought Janssen did. It was much later—after an unfortunate tussle with his erstwhile friend Huggins–that Lockyer would realize the comment was from Pogson's report and not Janssen's.' (emphasis mine)
Janssen was only convinced about the separateness of the new line from those of sodium in December 1868, asking Charles Sainte-Claire Deville (p. 181) 'to notify the Academy of Sciences of a passage from his (unpublished) letter of December 19: "Several observers have claimed the bright line D as forming part of the spectrum of the prominences on 18th August. The bright yellow line did indeed lie very close to D, but the light was more refrangible than those of the D lines. My subsequent studies of the Sun have shown the accuracy of what I state here."' So he only claims he saw it after others did – sounds exactly like the later actinium issue with Debierne and Giesel! In any case, most reliable sources seriously studying the matter give Lockyer credit for helium, and I daresay they represent more significant viewpoints than those of sources which do not seriously study the matter. Double sharp (talk) 15:02, 2 May 2017 (UTC)
And when I see what looks like the only serious source giving Janssen some credit at all, it proceeds to immediately give it right back. The Synthesis of the Elements: The Astrophysical Quest for Nucleosynthesis and What It Can Tell Us About the Universe (Giora Shaviv, 2012, p. 43) states in the main text "An independent discovery [of helium] was made the same year by Pierre Janssen", and then gives it right back with the footnote: "The names Janssen and Lockyer appear together because they independently devised a method to see the corona in broad daylight without the need for an eclipse. Janssen described the spectra, but the courageous hypothesis about a new element is due to Lockyer. Janssen was too enthusiastic about the new instrument to be bothered by an unidentified new element." Not a single reliable source specifically taking history as its main focus gives Janssen as much credit as Lockyer, and most do not give him credit for helium at all. Double sharp (talk) 15:09, 2 May 2017 (UTC)
I've given you eight reliable sources above. Are you trying to tell me that "Nature's Building Blocks: An A-Z Guide to the Elements By John Emsley" isn't a serious source? or Encyclopedia Britannica? or the Royal Society of Chemistry? or any other the others? Which ones are not serious sources? Even the source you adduce, Shaviv (2012), is clear that "An independent discovery [of helium] was made the same year by Pierre Janssen" and you've quoted it. There are no grounds whatsoever for removing the present text describing Janssen's first observation of the D3 line, which he recognised as at a shorter wavelength than the D lines of sodium – as he states in his letter of December 1868 and you quoted! The history of science contains many examples of discoveries where the nature of the discovery was not immediately recognised, but that in no way diminishes the achievement of the discoverer. All of the sources tell us that Janssen spotted the yellow line in 1868, and that he realised it was not sodium. That's enough to support our present text – and I'll remind you that this article has undergone peer review and the Featured Article candidature, so its content has not passed unexamined. --RexxS (talk) 16:08, 2 May 2017 (UTC)
@RexxS:, I believe that when Double sharp says "serious source" at the beginning of his paragraph above, he means "reliable source specifically taking history as its main focus" as he says at the end of his paragraph. @Double sharp: Please correct me if I am wrong. YBG (talk) 18:35, 2 May 2017 (UTC)
YBG is exactly right here. The nature of general treatments is that they tend not to do enough of their own original research and simply parrot unquestioningly what others have said; when their own original research is done, it is often wrong. As for Nature's Building Blocks, there are enough howlers in it (conspiracy explanation for flooding with silver salts! supposed natural transplutoniums, mathematically impossible with the neutron flux on Earth today) that yes, I am saying that these are not serious sources for the discovery. And meanwhile the RSC site hilariously uses predictions of metallicity for the superheavies, and copy-and-pastes it one too many times even though every serious source speculates that element 118 would be nonmetallic. These sources are just not as good as detailed treatments of the statement being cited would be and should be outweighed by them. And even that one mention from Shaviv is heavily tempered by the footnote.
If someone had found evidence of a new element, but had not pursued it further and not claimed it, would it be reasonable to call him the discoverer? No, of course not, and that according to the IUPAC's own principles for adjucating new element discoveries. So why does it suddenly become different here? Just because a host of sources not focusing on the matter and sloppily copying each other say the same thing? If one is citing a statement, isn't it much better to find a source that painstakingly researches the statement in question, rather than a popularised treatment which simply gives the information matter-of-factly with neither clear citations nor any research at all? Double sharp (talk) 22:53, 2 May 2017 (UTC)
@Double sharp: I think those points are the nub of the argument. The problem with saying that we're going to use source A and ignore source B because we think the methodology of source A is better than that of source B is that we're not qualified to make that judgement – and Wikipedia policies back that up. Here's what Wikipedia:Neutral point of view says: "Achieving what the Wikipedia community understands as neutrality means carefully and critically analyzing a variety of reliable sources and then attempting to convey to the reader the information contained in them fairly, proportionately, and as far as possible without editorial bias. Wikipedia aims to describe disputes, but not engage in them. Editors, while naturally having their own points of view, should strive in good faith to provide complete information, and not to promote one particular point of view over another. As such, the neutral point of view does not mean exclusion of certain points of view, but including all verifiable points of view which have sufficient due weight." I disagree with discarding (for example) Encyclopedia Britannica's view that "Helium was discovered in the gaseous atmosphere surrounding the Sun by the French astronomer Pierre Janssen" because you believe the authors "simply parrot unquestioningly what others have said". You have no evidence of what process those authors went through to reach their conclusions. Similarly, you simply can't reject the Royal Society of Chemistry's views because you disagree with them. I don't accept that our policy on WP:WEIGHT gives you carte blanche to reject reliable sources because they are "not as good". The only criterion for WEIGHT is the prominence of each viewpoint in the published, reliable sources, not an editor's assessment of how good a source is.
As for the hypothetical someone who "had found evidence of a new element, but had not pursued it further and not claimed it", can I ask you to please read what our article actually says: "The first evidence of helium was observed on August 18, 1868, as a bright yellow line with a wavelength of 587.49 nanometers in the spectrum of the chromosphere of the Sun. The line was detected by French astronomer Jules Janssen during a total solar eclipse in Guntur, India. Our article quite carefully does not name Janssen as "the discoverer of helium", but as the person who observed the first evidence. I just don't understand why we would want to remove the description of his achievement that's been present in this article for the last ten years, although I can see the value in adding a sentence pointing out that modern studies indicate that he didn't make a claim to be the discoverer of a new element. --RexxS (talk) 16:24, 3 May 2017 (UTC)
He was not even the only one to observe this new evidence and not consider the possibility of a new element (note the quote earlier about Pogson); so why only single out him? At best we should say that while he is often given credit as a co-discoverer, modern reexaminations of the historical matter show that he did not claim the new element, and only claimed to see the new yellow line after others had already found it (and in response to your question about whether I read what the article says, perhaps you should reread the quotes from the reliable sources I provided). I too am not proposing that we remove this in the article, but rather that we should add this detail; only in the infobox, where there is not space to go into all this, would it make sense to credit discovery to Lockyer alone as many well-researched sources actually do. I'm not saying the RSC is unreliable, but surely we would prefer a source that is actually focused on what it is citing to a source that just states it matter-of-factly in one sentence and then never follows it up again. Double sharp (talk) 22:58, 3 May 2017 (UTC)


In a recent edit summary, someone mentioned imperial units. US chemical engineering is commonly done in English (not imperial) units, such as cubic feet and pounds (mass). I am not sure of the sizes, and gas cylinder doesn't seem to help much, but I suspect that they are commonly in cubic feet. Also, for non-liquifying gases, the contents of cylinders are commonly (in the US) in cubic feet at (standard) atmospheric pressure. Gah4 (talk) 18:00, 6 July 2017 (UTC)

Chemical element articles use SI units all over. Exceptions (like: from old sources) may occur. For sure, we won't go into differences between those US end EN 'imperial' units. -DePiep (talk) 19:53, 6 July 2017 (UTC)
All I was trying to say, is that I suspect that gas cylinder sizes are commonly in cubic feet. That is, that they are specified to make nice round numbers in cubic feet, which may be not so round in cubic meters. This doesn't have much to do with the element, but more with they way things are packaged. That is, marketing but not science. Gah4 (talk) 22:36, 6 July 2017 (UTC)
(edit conflict) Many sources use 'billions of cubic feet' when describing helium reserves - see for a recent example from an impeccable source. It's up to us to provide sensible conversions into multiple common units so that readers who are accustomed to different systems can make sense of what we are writing. --RexxS (talk) 22:47, 6 July 2017 (UTC)