The race for the perfect red: Why we still haven't cracked the colour of love, excitement and blood
Synthetic shades of red can fade too easily or are made with toxic substances
Originally broadcast on May 22, 2018.
The colour red has long been established as the colour of love, passion and blood, but the science in creating it has never been perfect.
As far back as prehistoric times, people have used clay as a pigment for red body paint. We've used beetles, plants and even mercury to create the hue. What those methods share with modern efforts is the tendency to fall short. Those reds are often not bright enough, fade too easily or are made with substances considered to be toxic.
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To discuss the science, art and history of developing of colour pigments — and the race to find the perfect red — The Current spoke with:
- Mas Subramanian, a chemist at Oregon State University, who accidentally discovered a new shade of blue — YInMn Blue — in 2009.
- Jason Logan, a Toronto artist and pigment maker who forages for his ingredients on the shores of Lake Ontario.
- Amy Butler Greenfield, an author who has written about the history of the colour red. She told The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti that while most colours have different meanings in different cultures, if you look around the world red is consistently identified with "heat and passion and excitement."
Listen to the full conversation at the top of this page.
This segment was produced by The Current's Alison Masemann.