The 4th of July is perhaps best known for the holiday’s dazzling firework displays across the country—besides historical independence, of course. However, there’s more to these festive shows than their brilliance. Ever been curious about the objects lighting up the night sky with colorful shapes and drifting smoke? Fireworks have chemistry—and history!—and we want to give you a taste of that science and history so when you go watch the fireworks tonight, you can enjoy the display with new context and renewed curiosity! Check out these festive facts about fireworks!
- The current leader in the production and export of fireworks is China, and is believed to be the reason why firework shows are a popular form of celebratory entertainment.
- The Chinese also discovered how to make the earliest firecrackers: bamboo stalks roasted until an explosion is produced by the bamboo’s natural air pockets. Later, they put gunpowder in bunches of bamboo stalks, threw the shoots into a fire, and waited for inevitable explosion—rather, a small bang.
- The pyrotechnics of fireworks is just simply chemistry–and a delicate process. The primary ingredients inside the hardened cardboard shell are fuel, an oxidizer to support combustion, a colorant to provide that brilliant hue, and a binder to hold everything together. A timed fuse sets off the explosion after the firework has been rocketed into the air.
- The cool shapes fireworks make in the sky are determined by how the pyrotechnic stars are arranged inside the cylindrical casing. Pyrotechnic stars are pellets with all the ingredients needed for a colorful combustion!
- The sounds produced by fireworks depend on the type of chemicals and the firework casing. The characteristic loud bang comes from the gases inside the casing rapidly expanding and popping the cartridge. The crackling sound comes from slow-heating chemicals inside such as iron oxide. A whistling sound comes from a firework with a narrow tube.
- Walt Disney World consumes the most fireworks in the United States, likely because of its nightly firework shows.
- China may be responsible for the invention of fireworks, but it was in Italy where fireworks became known for their vibrant colors. In 1830, Italian pyrotechnic artists began to create their fireworks with trace amounts of color-changing chemicals.
- The previously uncontrolled firework detonations lead to the formation of the Society for the Suppression of Unnecessary Noise, which in turn lead to nation-wide regulations regarding the use of fireworks and is why different states have different firework ordinances.
- Fireworks aren’t particularly environment-friendly due to the associated chemicals and reactions produced during explosions. Furthermore, fireworks aren’t recyclable, and you should dampen the explosives and call your local waste department before discarding unused fireworks.
- The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reports that by 2013, 11,300 injuries were caused by fireworks, and more than half occurred around the 4th of July.
Now that you are familiar with these facts about fireworks, get out there and enjoy them! Be safe this 4th of July when it comes to fireworks. Have fun, but don’t forget mindfulness!
UWA Online Continuing Education wish our readers a happy 4th of July! For more information about UWA Online Continuing Education e-Learning, call us at 205-652-5110 or visit www.uwa.edu/ce!