The Quantum Physics That Makes Fireworks Possible
“Fireworks might appear to be relatively simple explosive devices. Pack a charge into the bottom of a tube to lift the fireworks to the desired height, ignite a fuse of the proper length to reach the burst charge at the peak of its trajectory, explode the burst charge to distribute the stars at a high temperature, and then watch and listen to the show as the sound, light, and color washes over you.
Yet if we look a little deeper, we can understand how quantum physics underlies every single one of these reactions. Add a little bit extra — such as propulsion or fuel inside each star — and your colored lights can spin, rise, or thrust in a random direction. Make sure you enjoy your fourth of July safely, but also armed with the knowledge that empowers you to understand how the most spectacular human-made light show of the year truly works!”
Fireworks have been around for more than a millennium, and universally contain the same four stages: a lift charge, a fuse, a burst charge, and stars. Yet even though we don’t particularly think about it frequently, quantum physics underlies each and every one of these stages, and is absolutely required if we want to understand how the light and color we see arises from simply heating/igniting different elements, ions, and chemical compounds.