As summer is coming to a close and we have come to the last holiday weekend of “official” summer, in a web exclusive from the 4th of July, here is John Oliver’s take on the American fixation with fireworks.
Aug 31 2014
Jul 02 2012
This time of year I generally write about fireworks since they are integral to the celebration of Independence Day. I have written some rather technical pieces in the past, so this time I thought that it might be a good idea to write about some safety factors that users of consumer fireworks should observe. Even though consumer fireworks are designed to minimize risk of injury, there is a finite probability that accidents and injuries will occur.
Many of you know how much I enjoy the music of The Who, and I shall work them into this piece. It happens to involve one of the most treacherous pyrotechnic composition, flash powder. In a former life, I was a professional pyrotechnician, and I am still scared of flash powder.
Many accidents involving consumer fireworks are either personal injuries caused by negligence (often alcohol fueled), ignorance, or bravado (also often alcohol fueled). Many other accidents involving these products have to do with unintentional fires cause by firework use, storage, or transport.
Jun 14 2012
Those of you that read this regular series know that I am from Hackett, Arkansas, just a mile or so from the Oklahoma border, and just about 10 miles south of the Arkansas River. It was a rural sort of place that did not particularly appreciate education, and just zoom onto my previous posts to understand a bit about it.
One advantage of living in a little town is that I could set off fireworks. Arkansas has a quirky law that allows sale of fireworks only a few days per year, a week or so around New Year’s Day and a week or so around Independence Day. I would get my parents, when I was little, to stock up. Later I would stock up myself.
I have seen lots of folks who have been injured by fireworks (when I was little, many of the consumer protection rules had not been put in place). Until adulthood I was never injured by any kind of firework (I DID come close a few times).
Jul 04 2011
I have written pieces about fireworks in this space for several years now. This year is no different, but instead of describing how modern fireworks operate, we shall, courtesy of The Doctor, take the TARDIS back to 1784, the first Independence Day after ratification of the Treaty of Paris, so for the first time the United States was a truly independent Nation on 04 July.
Unfortunately, my video camera was not working at the time, so I shall have just to describe what fireworks looked like at the time. The Doctor told me that he would come again and that we would go to the 1785 one for next year, and make sure that I had a functional video camera.
Except for color, fireworks in that era were similar to some of the least advanced ones that we have today. The complex aerial effects are quite modern, bright color is modern, and set pieces are also modern.
Jul 05 2010
This has been sort of a recurring theme for me the past few years for the installment nearest Independence Day. You can hit my profile and find the earlier entries in this series.
This time, I intend to focus on the single greatest improvement in technology (other than the development of black powder) that has made modern, highly colored fireworks possible. Until relatively recently the only colors available were white, yellow, and a dull red, with very faded out, compared to today, other colors.
First some theory, then some facts. Please follow.
Jul 06 2009
Since yesterday was Independence Day and many of us saw a fireworks display, shot off our own fireworks, or both, I thought it would be timely to describe how fireworks actually work. All fireworks have one thing in common: they give off heat from some sort of chemical reaction.
Most fireworks also give off light, and most also emit some sort of sound. Notable exceptions to this are sparklers which have little sound, smoke “bombs”, and the large set pieces that display shapes like an American flag or some such. We shall focus on the ones that give off light and sound.
Jul 03 2009
Since tomorrow is Independence Day and many folks will be displaying fireworks, I thought that this would be appropriate. Amateur use of fireworks sends many people to the Emergency Department every year, and if I can reduce the number of calls there my work is well done.
Many of you do not realize that I am a Certified Ammunition Handler, bestowed by the United States Army. I received that certification whilst I was directing the research and development of defensive and less than lethal pyrotechnic devices several years ago. I also understand the chemistry and physics of explosives.
There are two main classes of explosives, low explosives and high explosives. Most fireworks are in the former category, but there are exceptions.