Fireworks, a Marriage of Art and Science
After the Declaration of Independence was signed, John Adams wrote, in a letter to his wife, “I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great Anniversary Festival. It out be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports bells, guns, bonfires and illuminations from one end of the continent to the other, from this time forward and forevermore.” He would be amazed at how those illuminations have changed in 230 years.
I have always been fascinated with fireworks- with the colors and designs created in the sky, with the booms and crackles and even with the oohs and ahhs created within the crowds watching.
The first firecrackers are attributed to the Chinese during the Han Dynasty when they would roast bamboo to produce loud sounds to frighten away evil spirits. The discovery of gunpowder and the invention of true fireworks is also owed to the Chinese. Taoist monks would play with the basic components of gunpowder to create fireworks.
The chemistry behind making the colors in the fireworks is said to be a marriage of art and science. There are two main mechanisms of color production in fireworks, incandescence and luminescence. Incandescence is light produced from heat. Metals, such as aluminum, magnesium and titanium, burn very brightly and are useful for increasing the temperature of the firework.
Luminescence is light produced using energy sources other than heat. To produce luminescence, energy is absorbed by an electron of an atom or molecule, causing it to become excited, but unstable. When the electron returns to a lower energy state the energy is released in the form of a photon (light). The energy of the photon determines its wavelength or color. Read more about how the colors are produced here- there is a great color chart also.
To find out how each firecracker is built check out the site here. If you are interested in the names of the different fireworks that you will see during the next few days go here.
For games and wallpapers go here. More fun is here.
Happy Birthday America! “May the sun in his course visit no land more free, more happy, more lovely, than this our own country!” Daniel Webster