The technology of fireworks

To celebrate its joy, the community shoots explosive shells into the night sky, that, bursting, send forth large mandalas of colorful sparks, sometimes pure white, accompanied by loud reports. So the new year is celebrated across the planet, and weddings, birthdays, and national celebrations, like in the USA today. Outside thewikiness’s windows, the annual glut of backyard and civic shows is lighting up they sky, and the spectacle got me thinking.

Why fireworks? What do they do for the user? Where do these pretty tools get their power from?
Here are some tentative answers. A firework show gains value from:

  1. Ubiquity–its undeniable, primitive appeal dazzling the viewer with something suddenly and shockingly beautiful. One cannot ignore a bursting shell. It automatically arrests the human’s attention.
  2. Technique--its artistic use of the Promethean medium of fire to express strong human emotion through the precise application of explosive chemicals. When one considers how this same chemistry is used to blow people up, it makes the technology all the more meaningful. When the visual information is mashed up with music (choreographed to an orchestra’s performance), the skill is magnificent.
  3. image of 2006 Sydney Opera show take from Wikimedia
  4. Deep appeal--its basis–like all visual art–in light, which may be called an ur-value of humanity, strikes deep chords in the human heart. Light is, according to my primitive understanding of Einstein’s theory, the underlying medium of the cosmos, the only constant we have, and thus the appropriate medium of special information.  His “special relativity” paper of 1905 claimed (and it has been verified) that “the speed of light [is] independent of the frame of reference and an ‘upper limit’ on velocity and information transmission.”  So when he plays with light in the night sky, man is manipulating the ultimate currency of existence, expressing his extreme emotion (usually joy) in an extremely essential communications medium.

In those exploding mandalas, in the booms and pows, our spirit’s desire to shoot heavenward, escape  gravity, and write large our joy is reflected. Fireworks image the community’s happiness!

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