© 2023 Connecticut Public

FCC Public Inspection Files:
WPKT · WRLI-FM · WEDW-FM · Public Files Contact
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Arts & Culture

How Creating A Color Created A Controversy

flickr creative commons

Nyctophiliacs rejoice! The color you know and love (black) is now blacker than ever before. And never mind that black is not technically a color. The point is that as you were traipsing through graveyards and reveling under the night sky, scientists were busy inventing two new shades which are so dark they'd make Wednesday Adams reach for a flashlight.

But while Vanta black and Black 3.2 are undoubtedly achievements to be celebrated, they did not come without controversy. Indeed, the feud over who could use the blackest substance on Earth soon had the tempers of some artists running red hot. Can a color even be owned? As it turns out, yes!

This hour, we speak with a historian of the color black as well as the creator of one of these remarkable new shades. We'll also speak with a scientist on the other end of the color-creating spectrum about a brand new ultra-white that'll soon be brightening our lives in strange new ways.


  • Stuart Semple - Contemporary British artist and creator of several unique colors including PINK, the world's pinkest pink paint, and most recently Black 3.2, the world's blackest paint
  • John Harvey - Life fellow and former director of studies in English at Emmanuel College at Cambridge University; art critic and author of many books, including Men In Black, The Story of Black, and the 2020 U.K. Booker prize-nominated Pax
  • Silvia Vignolini - Associate professor at the University of Cambridge in chemistry and bio-inspired materials; lead researcher and creator of a new, ultra-white coating modeled on the scales of the Cyphochilus beetle

Join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

Colin McEnroe and Chion Wolf contributed to this show, which originally aired February 19, 2020.

Josh is a producer for WNPR's talk shows. He has produced for Where We Live and is currently producing for The Colin McEnroe Show.

Stand up for civility

This news story is funded in large part by Connecticut Public’s Members — listeners, viewers, and readers like you who value fact-based journalism and trustworthy information.

We hope their support inspires you to donate so that we can continue telling stories that inform, educate, and inspire you and your neighbors. As a community-supported public media service, Connecticut Public has relied on donor support for more than 50 years.

Your donation today will allow us to continue this work on your behalf. Give today at any amount and join the 50,000 members who are building a better—and more civil—Connecticut to live, work, and play.

Related Content