Barns are painted red because of the physics of dying stars Fall colors frame a red barn in East Montpelier, Vt. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot/AP Photo/Michael Felberbaum)
Barns are painted red because of the physics of dying stars
Lexile

Have you ever noticed that almost every barn you have ever seen is red? There's a reason for that, and it has to do with the chemistry of dying stars. Seriously.
 
Yonatan Zunger is a Google employee who explained this phenomenon on Google+. The simple answer to why barns are painted red is because red paint is cheap. The cheapest paint there is, in fact. But the reason it's so cheap? Well, that's the interesting part.
 
Red ochre - Fe2O3 - is a simple compound of iron and oxygen that absorbs yellow, green and blue light and appears red. It's what makes red paint red and it's really cheap because it's really plentiful. And it's really plentiful because of nuclear fusion in dying stars.
 
Zunger explains:
 
The only thing holding the star up was the energy of the fusion reactions, so as power levels go down, the star starts to shrink, and as it shrinks, the pressure goes up, and the temperature goes up, until suddenly it hits a temperature where a new reaction can get started. These new reactions give it a big burst of energy, but start to form heavier elements still, and so the cycle gradually repeats, with the star reacting further and further up the periodic table, producing more and more heavy elements as it goes. That is until it hits 56. At that point, the reactions simply stop producing energy at all; the star shuts down and collapses without stopping.
 
As soon as the star hits the 56 nucleon (total number of protons and neutrons in the nucleus) cutoff, it falls apart. It doesn't make anything heavier than 56.
 
What does this have to do with red paint? Because the star stops at 56, it winds up making a ton of things with 56 nucleons. It makes more 56 nucleons containing things than anything else (aside from the super light stuff in the star that is too light to fuse).
 
What is the element that has 56 protons and neutrons in its nucleus in its stable state? Iron. The stuff that makes red paint.
 
And that, Zunger explains, is how the death of a star determines what color barns are painted.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why would farmers choose the least expensive paint for their barns?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (15)
  • hemyp-har
    4/20/2017 - 01:54 p.m.

    Farmers would choose the least expensive paint because they need to save money. They have to have money for other things like feed for animals and water. They don't want to spend it all on paint.

  • eolivia-dav
    4/20/2017 - 07:33 p.m.

    In response to "Barns are painted red because of the physics of dying stars," I think that the topic is very interesting. One reason I have this opinion is that you would never think that the color of barns meant anything, or had a reason for it. Another reason is that . It says in the article that it has to do with the chemistry of dying stars. A third reason is that you would think it had to do with some animal or something.Even though some people wouldn't like this article, I think it is very factual.

  • temmy-dav
    4/20/2017 - 08:58 p.m.

    Farmers would chose the least expensive paint because do to whatever conditions they live in the paint will where off. They also have to run a farm and feed and groom animals and they save money with the cheaper paint. Why would someone buy expensive paint when you can buy cheep paint.

  • cbrooke-dav
    4/20/2017 - 09:46 p.m.

    In response to "Barns are painted red because of the physics of dying stars," I agree that his theory makes sense. One reason I agree is that he backs it up with a lot if facts. Another reason is that he gives good descriptive information. It says in the article "What is the element that has 56 protons and neutrons in its nucleus in its stable state? Iron. The stuff that makes red paint." That was a very clever theory. Even though, I think it might not be true, I still think that his theory was pretty cool.

  • sebastianj-ver
    4/21/2017 - 10:06 a.m.

    It's like the 56 nucleons fertilizes

  • schelsya-bur
    4/27/2017 - 10:09 a.m.

    I think farmers are pretty smart on choosing the cheapest paint because then they can paint more barn. They can also use that extra money to buy the animals food or plant more crops.

  • ellaj1-bla
    4/28/2017 - 08:23 a.m.

    Farmers should choose the least expensive paint for their barns because this way, they can save extra money that can go towards more valuable things on their barn. For example, farmers can use the spare money in order to buy food for their animals on the farm. There is also more paint in order to paint the barn so they do not have to buy as many paint buckets.

  • averys1-bla
    4/28/2017 - 08:39 a.m.

    Farmers would chose the cheapest costing paint, to save money. Farmers need money to be able to plant other crops and buy feed for the livestock. All farmers should do this, because it is the only smart choice for the color of their barns. If you want to paint and want it cheep then go red. My uncle owns his own farm and he has a red barn and he said he saved hundreds in paint.

  • lukel-bla
    4/28/2017 - 09:28 a.m.

    Farmers would choose the least expensive paint for their barns so they can save money. With the money they save from buying the cheap paint, they can put it towards buying crops, livestock, and tools for the farm. I like this article because I never knew why all barns were red. My grandparents have a red barn and now I know why. I enjoyed this article and thought it was good.

  • ashleighs-bla
    4/28/2017 - 09:38 a.m.

    Almost every barn is red because it has to do with the chemistry of a dyeing star. Red paint is the cheapest because red ochre is made of iron and oxygen that absorbs yellow, green, and blue lights. When a star dies, it produces heavy elements until it reaches 56 nucleons. "When the star stops at 56, it winds up making a ton of things with 56 nucleons. It makes more 56 nucleons containing things than anything else (aside from the super light stuff in the star that is too light to fuse)." says the author of this article. I think that it makes sense that all barns are painted red because it is the cheapest and there is a lot of blank canvas to paint. It lasts a long time even though it is the cheapest color to use. The farmers have to maintain their land and their animals, that costs a lot of money. They don't want to waste all of their money on paint.

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