Mike is brilliant. Because finding these plants has
taken longer than expected, I haven’t helped with
the pen design at all. But Mike really hasn’t
needed my help.
Both the desert mallow and the tansy mustard seed thickened
the inkweed sufficiently well, but the mini-version
of the ball point pen just wasn’t as reliable
as the capillary action zero-gravity pen, so we ditched
the thickeners and worked on improving the ink color
for the capillary pen.
Kate was less than impressed with the inkweed color.
She said something about it being a dirty, but functional,
grey. I brought out the cochineal, and she smiled. As
it turned out, Mike’s capillary pens needed quite
a bit of ink and I didn’t have enough cochineal
to be strong enough on its own. For the final test,
we mixed unthickened inkweed with cochineal. It worked
beautifully—a deep purple to write “Rough
Science mission accomplished!” which came through
clearly on Kathy and Jonathan’s light/sound communication
machine. Too bad Iain’s not a artist as well as
a geologist. The plaque of Kate’s face is…
well, Kate’s a good sport.