Barns are painted red because of the physics of dying stars
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
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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.

Source URL: https://www.tweentribune.com/article/tween78/barns-are-painted-red-because-physics-dying-stars/

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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 (17)
  • kayau-bla
    4/28/2017 - 11:59 a.m.

    Farmers would choose the least expensive paint for their barns because they might need to save money. They need money for other and more important things for the animals and their family. Some farmers might know about the star thing, too. I think that this a strange topic to cover. Then again it is kind of informative.

  • MJones02
    5/03/2017 - 11:03 a.m.

    The barn with the red paint can save money and it also used chemistry.

  • ahnad-orv
    5/04/2017 - 11:54 a.m.

    Thats crazy. I never questioned why all barns are red, I guess I just thought it was like monkey see monkey do.

  • lukeh-orv
    5/05/2017 - 01:09 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.

  • averym-orv
    10/18/2017 - 11:39 a.m.

    I think farmers would choose the least expensive paint for their barns because barns are big and they need a lot of paint so they don't want to spend excessive amounts of money on it.

  • joeyw-orv
    1/23/2018 - 02:32 p.m.

    It's weird once you figure out how some things work. I always thought that it was one thing someone did so someone else did so every body else did.

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