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The Physics of Fireworks Essay

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The Physics of Fireworks

"What are fireworks like?" she had asked.
"They are like the Aurora Borealis" said the King, "only much more natural. I prefer them to stars myself, as you always know when they are going to appear…"
-Oscar Wilde The Remarkable Rocket


Why did we choose the topic of fireworks?
Fireworks have been a traditional means of celebration in Hawaii for generations. They are fun to watch and even more fun to set off. Most of all, we chose this topic because we like to blow stuff up and cause our own non violent explosions.

Preliminary research
In order to better understand the physics of fireworks, we decided to investigate the history behind the understanding and conception of fireworks. Originally, fireworks were created in China. The art of combining pyrotechnics and casing them has existed since the sixth century. The Chinese made explosives as defense mechanisms against the Mongol invaders in the late 13th century, thereby employing pyrotechnics for other means than art. From China, fireworks proliferated to Europe where the first records indicate gunpowder rockets as early as 1258 AD.
Despite China's initial invention and progress, Europe exceeded the technology in the 14th century, around the same time the gun was invented. Gunpowder and shot for the military were made by firemakers, or skilled military tradesmen. They were also required to make victory fireworks for celebrations of victory and times of peace.
Throughout the Renaissance, rival philosophies of pyrotechnics evolved. One originated in Italy, and the other in Germany. The Italians believed that pyrotechnics should entail the use of elaborate fireworks, while the German school emphasized scientific advancements and...


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There are many variables and trivial differences present between the products of different manufacturers, however few other than the experts will notice them. Pyrotechnics is obviously a risky hobby in which very few people can dabble, unlike most other leisure activities. In this pastime of fireworking, progress is actually the development and creation of new effects. By experimentation, a new chemical composition may create a star effect not achieved previously, and such. For an example, titanium was a relatively new addition. Throughout the history of fireworks, diminutive groups of aficionados have continuously brought pyrotechnics to new heights. Fireworks still remain the perfect spectacle for celebration, experimentation and art. Pyrotechnics will no doubt continue on as an expression of art.


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