Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Why is lint blue?

Dear Mom:

Do you take less than serious questions? Well, I have one. Why is lint blue? No matter what color I am wearing I get blue lint, even when I'm wearing red.

Sincerely,

Blue Lint Hanging On Me


Dear Blue,

Your question made me laugh and then I had a thought. Thoughts come to me every now and again. It was almost like I was hearing the question, "Why is the sky blue?" all over again. I decided to look it up.

What I found was a course on belly button lint.

Seems there was a man by the name of Dr. Kruszelnicki who was awarded the Ig Nobel Prize for his research in 2002 regarding belly button lint. For those of you who don't know, as I didn't, what the Ig Nobel Prize is, let me tell you.

Each year in the fall ten winners are announced for their parody in areas of science that at "first make people laugh, and then make them think" (http://enwikipedia.org).

Such was the case with belly button lint and Dr. Kruszelnicki.

Kruszelnicki discovered some fascinating things about belly button lint, such as the "existence of navel lint [being] entirely harmless, and requir[ing] no corrective action," but perhaps more importantly, that the "navel lint's characteristic blue tint is due to the existence of blue fibres in clothing."

Another source revealed that the color of lint in your navel had to do with the color you were wearing, suggesting that if you wear blue clothes you will have blue lint.

Not a likely concept however, if you are getting blue lint from a red sweater, for example.

Still, this same source suggests that "if you wear lots of different [colors] then the lint collected is a kind of blue grey rather like the stuff you find in your clothes dryer" (http://www.silkhouse.co.uk).

I couldn't help it. I started to ponder my dryer lint. Most of the time, yes, it was a sort of blue gray but occasionally, very occasionally it was pink. So what was up with that?

This brought me to Graham Barker who is the record holder in the Guinness Book of Records since 1984 for the collection of the most belly button lint.

Barker never collects blue in his button, but "a particular shade of red," though he rarely wears the color.

What's up with that?

No one seems to know. I even checked one site where the person's belly button lint was discovered in almost all the colors of the rainbow!

But I'm taking you a bit off track. You asked about blue lint, and not the lint in belly buttons, I am guessing, but the lint found on your favorite red sweater, for example.

I say the answer is the same. Whether the lint goes in your button or on your sweater's sleeve, the color will more than likely be blue for the "blue fibre" reason stated above.

If it's not, you might want to check with Graham Barker.

Mom
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