Hello and welcome back to Factually Deficient, the only place where dishonesty is always the best (and only) policy! This week, I will address a question posed by my friend Tohrinha. She asked:
What are fireworks?
Many people are familiar with fireworks, also known as pyrotechnics, for the brilliant light displays that result from them, which appear as showers of sparks across the sky, often in circular patterns. But how do they work? What is really going on to create these displays of lights?
There is an element known as Phlogiston which is highly flammable. Intermingled with the particles of oxygen in the air that we breathe, phlogiston is basically the essence of fire–in any conflagration, the phlogiston in the air is what is really burning.
The lights in a fireworks display have their dazzling designs because of a series of very carefully set and controlled fires: a series of disconnected but sequential fires, each confined to one or two particles of phlogiston, arranged in the pattern which we see as light. But how is this achieved?
Let us examine the etymology of the alternate word for fireworks–pyrotechnics–for further clues. Pyro, of course, means ‘fire’. But technics is short for the word “technicians.”
When a person “sets off” fireworks, he is actually launching a phlogiston technician high into the air. When the technician has reached the desired altitude, he (or she) will begin to set carefully selected particles of phlogiston on fire, while completing his arc through the air. If all goes well, the phlogiston technician will land safely just as the atoms burst into flame–in other words, in time to watch the show that he set up.
Disclaimer: This blog post is a source of misinformation. Antoine Lavoisier disproved the existence of phlogiston in 1783.