The 4th of July is past and gone, and one thing that seems to be missing are those large fireworks displays where many people gather in close quarters to watch. At the writing of this column most displays have been cancelled due to COVID-19 concerns.  

Most historians concur that the origination of fireworks came from China. The first natural firecrackers came from the burning of bamboo.  As the air inside the sealed chambers of bamboo heated and heated, they eventually would explode, with a loud pop.  This eventually led to the idea of making man-made fireworks.  

Sometime between 600 and 900 AD the Chinese concocted a mixture of potassium nitrate (saltpeter), sulfur and charcoal, which was the first gunpowder.  The mixture would first be poured into hollowed out bamboo shafts, and later stiff paper to make the first fireworks. 

To no surprise, more than 80 percent of fireworks are manufactured in China. Although they may seem like a really big toy, there is a lot of science behind those incredible displays.  Fireworks are essentially missiles designed to explode in a very controlled way. We get the name “fireworks” from the Greek word “pyrotechnic”, which literally means “fire art” or “fire skill”; certainly, that cannot be disputed.  

Just like the metals in the school Brunson burner glow with different colors when exposed to extreme heat -- so, too, are different metals loaded into fireworks to produce an array of beautiful colors. Sodium compounds give yellow and orange, copper and barium salts give green or blue, and calcium or strontium give red.  

Maybe next year things will be back to normal, or maybe this is the new normal.

--God bless you all -- RHM