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Fireworks!

Program Overview


NOVA investigates the science and psychology of fireworks.

The program:

  • chronicles the first use of fireworks more than 1,000 years ago by the Chinese, who made firecrackers from gunpowder, and shows the historical relationship between gunpowder and fireworks over time.

  • traces the allure of fireworks over time, from their beginnings as a magical marvel used during medieval times—when much of life was lived in the dark—to their use in Renaissance royalty gatherings and at public celebrations for masses of people.

  • notes that the three basic ingredients of a firework—potassium nitrate, charcoal, and sulfur—have not changed much from when they were first used.

  • profiles Zambelli's Internationale, a pyrotechnic company run by an Italian-American family with generations of fireworks experience.

  • details how colors, sounds, and shapes are created, and how experts continually seek to improve their displays.

  • describes how a firework is conceived, made, launched, and exploded.

  • portrays the intricate organization of Boston's annual July 4th display and shows how a computer network controls the launch of 5,700 fireworks at that event.

  • introduces Pyro Boy, who straps fireworks to his body to create a 1-minute human fireworks display.

  • reviews safety measures that govern the firework industry.

Teacher's Guide
Fireworks!
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