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Buoyancy Helium-Balloon Photo Sequence Experiment Analyses, Questions and Answers – A CSI Study at
© Donald Reinhardt, May 4, 2013
The photos shown here will grow and challenge your thinking and skills. Imagine you are a scientific investigator who is asked to evaluate, analyze, take written notes and comment on what you see and believe is happening for each numbered photo. When finished compare your experimental evaluation and analysis of the photographic evidence to those observations and answers made by me. This exercise requires you to do critical thinking and evaluate evidence based on these photos. Have fun, learn and enjoy – it is another great day at Let the balloons fly and welcome to our CSI story at
Photo 1. Write down everything you see and think that is important regarding these balloons and the surounding environment – note the number, size, color and position of the balloons and take any other notes that you consider important. Imagine this as a crime scene investigation (CSI) and you are studying it all at CSI of
Photo 1 of Helium-Filled Balloons Photo Experiment. © Donald Reinhardt, May 4, 2013
Photo 2. Now analyze photo 2 of the helium balloons. What original and additional or new information is indicated in the photo 2 below. Again, take written notes of what you see and note everything you think is important.
Photo 2 of Helium-Filled Balloons Photo Experiment. © Donald Reinhardt, May 4, 2013
Photo 3. What does the third photo reveal and show about the helium-filled balloons? Think and explain.
Photo 3 of Helium-Filled Balloons Photo Experiment. © Donald Reinhardt, May 4, 2013
Photo 4 of the helium-filled balloons follows here below. What has happened, changed or is different here? Contrast and compare with the previous three photos: 1, 2 and 3.
Photo 4 of Helium-Filled Balloons Photo Experiment. © Donald Reinhardt, May 4, 2013
More evidence is shown in photo 5. Carefully analyze photo 5 of the helium-filled balloon. Is there anything new revealed here?
Photo 5 of Helium-Filled Balloons Photo Experiment. © Donald Reinhardt, May 4, 2013
Photo 6 is next. What additional information and facts are revealed. What do you see here?
Photo 6 of Helium-Filled Balloons Photo Experiment. © Donald Reinhardt, May 4, 2013
Now we see photos 7 and 8 and more information on the helium-filled balloons.
Photo 7 of Helium-Filled Balloons Photo Experiment. © Donald Reinhardt, May 4, 2013
Photo 8 of Helium-Filled Balloons Photo Experiment. © Donald Reinhardt, May 4, 2013
Critical Thinking Questions for the Helium-Filled Balloons Photo Experiment
1. How many balloons were involved in this study and what were the characteristics of these balloons (i.e. color, shape and any other features)?
2. How are the balloons anchored or prevented from rising?
3. Why are there balloons displayed here by someone in this neighborhood and what purpose do they serve?
4. What do you think the weather conditions were when these photos were taken?
5. Were there any cars, people or animals around that you could see?
6. Compare photos 1, 3, and 4. What do you think was happening?
7. What happened based on the photo evidence of photos 4, 5 and 6.
8. At least two new events occurred based on the photos 7 and 8. What were they?

You may want to review all the photos one more time based on the questions above. Finally, what you need to do is evaluate your original observations with any new and expanded observations.

How Crime Scene Investigation Thinking and Actions Work

Being a CSI person is being a thinking and observing person. The CSI person is someone trained to think logically and evaluate critically. The crime may be as simple as a robbery or damage to property or as complex as the death of a person that must be determined. Was this situation normal or abnormal? Was a crime committed or is this a natural event. If a crime was committed, how was it done and who did this? The goal of CSI is to uncover the truth and gather all the evidence that can lead to the truth. If a crime was committed the goal is to find the person or persons involved and bring them to justice. When crimes are solved then guilty persons are made to pay the price.

The Helium Balloon Photo Story and Photo Evidence as a CSI Case 

Now is the time we put the photo evidence before us and analyze the balloon study presented.

1. The photo evidence reveals three balloons that are buoyant, i.e. floating or being pulled upward. So, if the three balloons are floating or being pulled upward this leads us to expect that they are not filled with air. If the balloons were air-filled they would not float. Instead we should think these balloons contain the most common, lighter-than-air gas, helium, to float balloons. Also we can notice that the three balloons are each of a different color. There are 2 shades of green and 1 orange balloon. These are not foil or mylar balloons, instead they seem to be rubberized balloons.
2. The balloons are tied onto a metal mailbox whh is embedded in a fancy brick mailbox station outside a large house and right beside the driveway to that house.
3. In the United States families usually celebrate and announce birthdays and anniversaries by attaching one or more balloons to mailboxes or streetside bushes as shown. These displays may aso celbrate graduations and in this case the person said they were displayed to honor St Patrick on St. Patrick's Day.
4. Based on the movement of the balloons the day was windy with some moments of stillness in the air. For example, photo 1 shows us the balloons elevated straight and upright (i.e., perpendicular to the ground level).
5. Photos 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 tell us several things. The wind was blowing strongly to the left of the mailbox. The left direction is actually almost a due east direction. The wind also actually was shifting and caused the balloons to move occasionally to the westward direction, followed by a shift back to the east. Check the photos again to see this.

6. Photos 1, 3 and 4 show the force of the wind moving the balloons one way and then in another direction as explained above. The wind gusts were occasionally very strong as revealed in photo 3.

7. Photos 4, 5 and 6 indicate an important event – the orange balloon has collapsed or deflated. Gas has escaped from the orange balloon and some lift upward or force upward has been lost. Nevertheless, despite the loss of one balloon, there is still some good upward buoyancy.

8. Photos 7 and 8 indicate that another balloon (the light green balloon) has collapsed and deflated by loss of the helium gas. The weight of the collapsed orange and light green balloons and the loss of the buoyancy from each balloon created a situation with a less buoyant upward force. The force (pull) of gravity caused the remaining darker green balloon to be grounded and it moved horizontally, to and fro, when driven by the wind.

Finally, we may ask these questions?
  • Why did two of these balloons collapse?
  • Did someone intentionally deflate the helium balloons or did the balloons deflate naturally?
  • How would you prove, as a CSI investigator, that here was a possible intentional criminal act committed against these defenseless balloons?
  • Could the balloons have deflated naturally? Think and discuss all of these issues because that is exactly what CSI people do. And the proof and the answers come by further critical thinking, testing and analysis and final evaluion of all the data. As far as this study was concenred what happened is explained after the series of Buoyancy Articles cited below.

Buoyancy Theory and Facts are Discussed in These Articles

To understand more about water and air buoyancy you may find time to read these articles right here on our site.
Buoyancy Articles at

Buoyancy Helium-Balloon Experiments and Fun with the Scientific Method


The balloons in this photgraphic series were displayed by a neighbor for St. Patrick's Day as mentioned above.
My photo study was done to evalute the effects of wind currents on the balloons. During this second or third day of the balloon display there was a slow "whoosh" sound as one balloon lost its seal and deflated. I was amazed and actually pleased to see that this happened on its own so spontaneously. As I continued to take photos, the second balloon spontaneously "whooshed" and lost its seal. So, a wind experiment turned into a buoyancy analysis study. This was an amazing and true story. This proves that the answers to certain questions sometimes occur right in front of our eyes. Whoosh, just like that, the answer appears. Finally, if someone had punctured or shot the balloon as with a B-B gun, then the balloons would show evidence of a puncture wound when the rubber was stretched and examined. That would be an example of a forensic analysis and study of the evidence to prove or disprove a theory or idea as to the cause of the balloon deflation.  In this case of ballon deflation, again, it was a natural defect due to a weakened seal at the inflating end of the balloon.