Today is Independence Day here in the United States, where the Certification Magazine home offices are located. The CertMag staff is enjoying a day off.
Independence Day commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776. This event energized and crystallized American resistance to British rule — which had already erupted into war on April 18, 1775 — and stands as a famous turning point in the history of the United States.
We'll return to our regular schedule of operations on Tuesday. Until then, why not enjoy this Independence Day-themed quiz about fireworks? Of all the traditions associated with Independence Day, perhaps the most widely observed is the staging of elaborate fireworks displays. So where did fireworks come from? Let's find out!
1) Where did fireworks come from?
2) Which came first, gunpowder or fireworks?
3) What biological phenomenon led to the invention of fireworks?
4) How did fireworks become colored?
5) How long have fireworks been used for U.S. celebrations of Independence Day?
6) Which American literally wrote the book (all right, all right — a book) on fireworks in 1822?
7) What metals/minerals are used to create red, white, and blue fireworks?
8) What was the first U.S. presidential inauguration to be celebrated with a fireworks display?
9) Who presided over the fireworks display at Bilbo Baggins' eleventy-first birthday celebration, as described in The Fellowship of the Rings?
10) Which private company is the largest consumer of fireworks in the world?
1) China. The processes and methods of making fireworks originated in China during the Song dynasty (960 to 1279).
2) The invention of gunpowder by Chinese physicians attempting to use saltpeter (potassium nitrate) to prolong life dates back at least to the mid-9th century. Gunpowder had been in use for roughly a hundred years or so when the first fireworks began to be manufactured.
3) The concept of fireworks stems (See what we did there?) from the first attempts to use bamboo as firewood. Because bamboo grows so rapidly, air pockets are formed in bamboo stems. When bamboo is heated, the pockets expand and then burst, causing a loud popping sound.
4) Chinese pyrotechnicians eventually applied existing techniques developed to create chemically colored smoke to their processes for making fireworks.
5) Since 1777. The first formal observance of Independence Day in the United States, one year after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, included fireworks. After being brought to Europe in the 13th century, fireworks had, ah, exploded in popularity and were an established accessory of large-scale celebrations by the time of the American Revolution.
6) Naval hero and master gunner George Marshall included detailed formulas for making fireworks in his book Marshall's Practical Machine Gunnery.
7) Strontium and lithium are used for red fireworks. Copper halides are used for blue fireworks. Powders of titanium, aluminum, and magnesium are used for white fireworks.
8) The inauguration of George Washington as America's first president, at Federal Hall in New York City, was celebrated with a fireworks display. According to visiting Boston merchant John May, the inaugural fireworks were "greeted with tumultuous applause."
9) Gandalf. The wandering wizard, whose fireworks Bilbo had admired since childhood, concluded the birthday spectacle with an especially realistic dragon firework.
10) The Walt Disney Company. Disney, which uses fireworks extensively at its theme parks, also pioneered the commercial use of aerial fireworks launched using compressed air instead of gunpowder.