When planning a party or special event, one of the first things that comes to mind is to have balloons as part of the decoration, due to their colourful, simple, and novelty-style appearance. But who came up with the idea to produce these rubbery sacks of air?
The idea of the ‘balloon’ was first proposed in Italy in 1643, when physicist Evangelista Torricalli wanted to prove that air was more than ‘nothing’. Although the theory was correct (how can a balloon, or something similar, have shape with trapped air if it is suposedly nothing?), the first production of the item was by Portugese priest Bartolomeu de Gusmao, who in 1709, first displayed air trapped in a substance, and gave it the name that it is known by today, balloon.
In the 19th century, balloons were developed further, this time in England, when scientists used rubber to store the air, and experimented with ‘lighter than air substances’ such as hydrogen, discovering that it caused the balloon to float upwards. In 1881, these types of ‘balloons’ were made available to the public, and in 1931 the first ‘novelty’ version was produced. From the 1970’s onwards, party balloons have been seen in the variety of colours, designs, shapes, and sizes that we see today, with modern materials including rubber, nylon, or latex, amongst others, and being designed to be filled with water (water balloons), helium/hydrogen (for upwards floating), nitrous oxide, or normal air, allowing for modern balloons to be applied to a wide range of purposes.
One concern about balloons, though, is when they are punctured. If enough pressure is applied to a party balloon that causes a break of the material, it will ‘pop’. It is usually to quick to notice, and it is hard not to feel as though a gun has just been fired, but with slow-motion cameras such as those in the video clip below, you can see just how quickly a balloon will burst, even by comparision to gravity…