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David Porter » Entries tagged with "spectacle"

Fireworks: Cultural, Civic, National Celebrations and Politics

Why do people love fireworks? Why did London burn almost £2m on them in 2011 to outdo Sydney’s pyrotechnic display? They’re a sign of potency!   According to PyroUniverse, fireworks go back to around 200BC in the Chinese Han Dynasty, when early firecrackers were chunks of green bamboo thrown onto a fire. The rods exploded because bamboo grows so fast ‘that pockets of air get trapped inside’ which expand when heated. It frightened people, animals and, they assumed, evil spirits. It became customary to burn green bamboo during the lunar new year to ward off evil. They then added it at weddings, coronations and births. A thousand years later and by accident alchemists experimented with sulphur, saltpeter, honey and arsenic disulphide exploding in fire. They found more saltpeter made it burn faster. ‘Gunpowder put … Read entire article »

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