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Friday, July 21, 2017

Fireworks: Colour Chemistry #amwriting #scifirom

Hi, I'm Pippa Jay, author of SciFi and supernatural stories to engage your emotions. As a Brit, we don't really celebrate the 4th of July here, though living in a garrison town we've had a few US military personnel stationed here so we've heard a fair few fireworks on Independence Day. Or for Chinese New Year. But our traditional day for fireworks is Bonfire Night on the 5th of November, when we tie Guy Fawkes to a stake, set fire to him, and set off fireworks in memory of the thwarted Gunpowder Plot. Yeah, we Brits are a bit weird...
As a former analytical chemist and general science fan, one of my favourite experiments at school was the flame test (I was a closet pyromaniac too). A flame test involves using a clean metal wire dipped in hydrochloric acid then dipped into various ground metal salts in turn (cleaning the wire between each to avoid contamination, of course). These are then placed into a Bunsen burner flame, and the colour given off helps to identify the metal salt.
So I know something about the chemistry involved in making a flame different colours. Metal salts are used to give the different colours in fireworks in the same way. I found this handy chart to summarize them.

So while I love fireworks and still find them magical, a small part of my mind is thinking about what metal salt is responsible for the glorious colours I'm seeing! 
A challenge for you - why don't you use the chart above to take
a guess at what metal salts give these fireworks their colour?


And while I write mostly SciFi and fireworks might seem rather old fashioned in the far future, I managed to sneak them into my debut novel for one of my favourite scenes. My heroine Quin loves them. My hero Keir...well, he has other things on his mind...


Low lighting triggered as he came into the room, giving everything a soft yellow glow that was easy on tired eyes. He gave the room a cursory glance. Most of the objects were unfamiliar to him, although the large bed was self-explanatory. A stiff breeze blowing through the chamber stirred the filmy white curtains on the far side into a slow dance, like twining skeins of mist. Brilliant flashes of multicolored lights burst and bloomed in the sky, drawing him onto a small balcony outside.
He stood in the shadows and watched them in fascination, the night air cool on his skin and the wind ruffling his hair. His quarters overlooked the stone bowl of the plaza in which they had arrived, a deep crater in the craggy mouth of the mountain that cupped the shell-like palace. Even in the glow of the illuminated sky, he could see nothing below the crater’s rim or the landscape beyond, all of it hidden by night’s dark mantle. The stars were white pinpricks, dimmed to insignificance by the explosion of lights and veiled by a mixture of smoke and wispy clouds.
Amidst the noise and flashes, the sound of movement drew his gaze aside. Quin had stepped out onto the adjoining balcony to lean nonchalantly on the ledge and admire the show. The light display forgotten, Keir immersed himself deeper in the shadows and watched her instead. 
###
But to finish... This year I was hoping to have something of my own to celebrate on the 4th of July. I keep Pekin bantams (half sized chickens with fluffy feet), and my youngest had been asking about hatching some chicks. Now, we don't have a cockerel to get fertile eggs - we live on the edge of town with close neighbours, so the early morning crowing would be antisocial - so I ordered six hatching eggs online and put then under one of my hens who was being broody (this is when they go into a kind of trance and sit on the eggs to hatch them). They were due to hatch on the 4th. 
Nothing happened. 
On the 5th I thought I could hear tapping and scraping, but thought it might be wishful imagination but my 12yo agreed he could hear something too. By the next day we could all hear tapping and even cheeping.
The first two chicks start breaking through!


The first two eggs hatched on the evening of the 6th, with the rest hatching overnight and into the 7th. Better late than never! 
Our first two hatchlings - the darker is Splash, the silvery
one is Mot.




Our mama Effie with all her babies
(Pssst, for more videos and pics you can check out my posts at Spacefreighters Lounge HERE & HERE or follow me on Twitter as @pippajaygreen for instant and daily updates on my little fluffballs).

2 comments:

Judith Ashley said...

I learned several things from your post today, Pippa. One: what makes fireworks the different colors. To be honest, I not only didn't know, I wasn't even curious. And second: while I've heard you talk about your chickens, I don't remember having seen them. Very cute! Didn't know you lived in a garrison town either.

What I did know was that you are an excellent writer. Loved the balcony scene from "Keir".

Diana McCollum said...

I loved the science lesson! I had no idea what made the colors in fireworks. Your chicks are so cute. What a great experience for your children to see them hatched. I read Keir a while back and really enjoyed the story.