Ever Wondered Why Barns Are Red?


What color do you think this barn is painted? Likely, you said red, right?

For as long as I can remember, barns have been red. I mean, sure, there are some randomly colored barns out there, but most are red. Here’s why:

The compound that makes red paint is very cheap and very plentiful thanks to dying stars. Wait, what?

That wasn’t a typo. Dying stars play a vital role in red paint. More precisely, it’s the red-colored iron in the stars. Get ready for a little science, so put your thinking caps on:

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. 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 neucleons. It makes more 56 nucleon containing things than anything else (aside from the super light stuff in the star that is too light to fuse).

The element that has 56 protons and neutrons in its nucleus in its stable state? Iron. The stuff that makes red paint.

12 Comments on Ever Wondered Why Barns Are Red?

  1. Wow! That’s pretty cool 🙂 I like it when you guys post more interesting (and random) things like that ^ 😉

  2. purple bird // May 16, 2013 at 6:55 pm // Reply

    Okay, I’m still confused. How does this answer the question? Are you saying we get all our iron from dead stars? Do you mean farmers used red paint just because it’s cheap? You could have just said that instead of going into a whole scientific explanation about dying stars! Or you could have just made this article about stars instead of barns!!!!! >:( #Peechtival!

    • Boys' Life // May 17, 2013 at 9:57 am // Reply

      You’re right. It’s basically a scientific way of saying that farmers buy red paint because it’s cheap. But at least you learned why it’s so cheap, right?

      • purple bird // May 19, 2013 at 5:32 pm //

        I guess so. But how does a lot of iron from dead stars make it cheaper? I mean, how do we get it? ?( #Peechtival!

      • Boys' Life // May 20, 2013 at 10:51 am //

        The more product that is available (in this case red paint) the less expensive it will be. The more rare an item, the more expensive it generally is.

    • What does “#Peechtial!” mean? Not to offend you, but what does it really mean?

  3. I never would hve thought of that.

  4. John Smith // June 1, 2013 at 9:38 pm // Reply


  5. The Doctor // July 21, 2013 at 1:55 pm // Reply

    By the way, “What?”, Peechtival is the sound that the purple bird from Angry Bird’s makes.

  6. You lost me at “reactions.”

  7. sherlocksmaug // October 8, 2014 at 12:03 am // Reply

    That is so cool! I agree with potato, you should post more things like this!

  8. Isn’t most iron mined on earth?

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