Popular Science

Everything you need to know about the explosive science of fireworks

Light 'em up.

And the rockets' red (and blue and green and yellow) glare.


It’s an age-old tradition: Millions of Americans, from infants to the elderly, attend fireworks shows for the Fourth of July. There’s nothing quite as patriotic as sitting out on a blanket and watching hundreds of explosions light up the sky in honor of your country’s birthday. But how do those explosions even happen?

Well, we’re here to arm you with some fun facts about the most patriotic science: pyrotechnics, the chemistry of explosions. It's perfect for showing off smarts at your Fourth of July barbecue.

Inside the explosion

Fireworks were invented centuries ago in China, and although they look different now, they still have the same fundamental components. The fireworks that you might see at a modern Fourth of July display are aerial shells—these are very different from the fireworks that you might set off at home

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