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Published on October 4th, 2019 | by Sunit Nandi

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5 Unusual Facts About Ink

Ink is one of those items that is so pervasive in everyday living that we don’t give it much thought. It has been a mainstay of human civilization for thousands of years and has always been a means to preserve history, communicate ideas or accentuate beauty. Ancient inks were made from resin, burnt bones and plant dyes. Today’s ink follows a much more complex product design and manufacturing process (for instance, see more info on compatible Videojet ink). Here are a number of unusual facts you didn’t know about ink.

Unusual facts about ink (Source: Pixabay.com)

Of Blood Koran and Blood Posters

This seems like a somewhat gory start to our list but is worth delving into since the sight of blood is one thing that tends to linger long in the memory. The somewhat good news is that blood is a poor source of ink. Not only is it painful and dangerous to extract, but it also tends to fade and oxidize quickly.

Despite these compelling disadvantages though, people throughout history have sought to use blood as ink. In one of the most eccentric examples, the deposed Iraqi president Saddam Hussein had a copy of the Koran inscribed with his own blood. Blood has also been used as a dramatic marketing gimmick. For example, in 2006, Lionsgate Films used lead actor Tobin Bell’s blood on the movie posters of the horror film Saw III.

Ballpoint Pen Ink Mimics Termite Scent

Termites are destructive insects that are infamous for their affinity for wood, a material that’s used in all kinds of construction. Billions of dollars in damages each year can be attributed to the voracious appetite of termites. In the battle to stem the termite scourge, scientists discovered that termite behavior is largely driven by the production of pheromones.

When a termite stumbles on food, it leaves a trail of pheromones in order to locate it easily later. Pest control experts have deployed various substances that mimic termite pheromones in the hope of tricking the insects away from their target.

One unexpected solution is found in a ballpoint pen’s ink. If you use a ballpoint pen to draw a random design on a sheet of paper and then place a couple of termites on the paper, you’ll see the termites follow the outline in the hope that it will lead them to a snack.

Human Ashes in Comic Ink

Ash was a mainstay of ancient inks but has largely faded into obsolescence with the discovery of more sophisticated ink sources. Nevertheless, ashes are still sneaked into ink color every once in a while. Perhaps one of the most spectacular such incidents in recent times involved the mixing of human ashes in comic ink.

Mark Gruenwald was a colorful character who worked for Marvel Comics for nearly two decades before he suffered a fatal heart attack in 1996. One of his wishes was to be cremated and his ashes mixed with the ink used to print a comic. Marvel granted him this macabre request with a little bit of Gruenwald’s ashes mixed into an issue of Squadron Supreme.

Lead in Ink

With mass shootings being one of the biggest worries for any parent of a school-going child in America, concerns around ink would seem like the least of a parent’s problems. But printing ink produced in decades past sometimes contained lead, and lead is a poisonous element even when ingested in tiny quantities.

For this reason, one of the sections of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act passed by Congress in 2008 included a prohibition of lending or selling any children’s books printed before 1985 unless the book ink was tested for the presence of lead. The cost of testing a book for lead is prohibitively expensive (upwards of $250), so the overwhelming majority of schools, retailers and libraries opted to completely dispose of their old books altogether.

Cephalopod Ink

Nearly all animals in the class cephalopoda including squid, octopuses and cuttlefish produce a burst of ink as a self-defense mechanism. When they sense a predator approaching, they release a jet of dark pigment that can disorient the predator long enough for the cephalopod to make its escape.

The pigment is mainly composed of mucus and melanin and has been used as ink by humans for centuries. More recently, medical research has found that cephalopod ink is effective in the treatment of cancer.

So next time you think about the ink on your books, fabrics, walls or furniture, remember some of these unusual but interesting uses of ink.

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I'm the leader of Techno FAQ. Also an engineering college student with immense interest in science and technology. Other interests include literature, coin collecting, gardening and photography. Always wish to live life like there's no tomorrow.



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