Physics of Fireworks

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After black powder was discovered by the Chinese in the 9th Century, the relatively short history of fireworks began with this explosive chemical composition. Black powder is made up of potassium nitrate, sulfur, and charcoal (KNO3); in the correct amounts, this combination has very explosive results. The use of black powder sprung forth the evolution of muskets, rockets, and fireworks. Although history has shown that the development of black powder muskets into modern day guns, artillery, and weapons of mass destruction have changed the face of the earth, taken many lives, and changed the outcome of many wars, black powder is also used in many rituals and celebrations. While traveling the globe, Marco Polo, fascinated by this black powder, brought it back to the West were it soon caught on. In Rome, King Charles V used fireworks to celebrate a victory. The fireworks were developed and made by his “fire workers” who made leaps and bounds with the projectiles and rocket shape of the fireworks. These elaborate demonstrations of fire soon spread through Europe and pleased many spectators of the King and Queens Court. In the middle ages, Italy and Germany took their displays to another level, incorporating different colors and effects. In Italy, the firework displays were used to accentuation buildings and structures, while in Germany, the focus was more on the fireworks themselves. The name "green men" was coined on account of the people who would cover themselves in leaves to protect their body from sparks and ashes as they launched fireworks from their hands. As music grew and became a large part of society, the incorporation of music and firework displays became inseparable. The most infamous of all fireworks displays, f... ... middle of paper ... ...ich ended up missing his head, but tearing the front of the coat. Anyone who has ever felt the material on a fire coat can tell you that it would be very difficult to do damage like that to fire coat in a split second. Bibliography Lancaster, Ronald, and Butler, Roy E.A., and Lancaster, J. Mark, and Shimizu, Takeo. Fireworks Principles and Practice. New York: Ticknor, 2002. Pihko, Petri. “Pyrotechnics – The Art of Fire.” 1998. Online posting. Pihko, Petri. 12 April 2003. ProQuest Information and Learning Company. “Physics of Fireworks.” 2003. Online posting. Bigchalk – The Education Network. 12 April 2003. Russell, Michael S. The Chemistry of Fireworks. York, ME: Stenhouse, 2000. “The Physics of Colored Fireworks.” 1998. Online posting. 12 April 2003.

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