The Chinese and the Art of Explosion

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Folk artists perform molten iron fireworks at Taierzhuang ancient city of China. (Photo by Gao Qimin/VCG via Getty Images)

This Fourth of July holiday, as we all look into the night sky and oooh and ahhh at the breathtaking fireworks displays, let’s take a moment to honor the Chinese alchemists who, while trying to develop a potion to extend the human lifespan into eternity, hit upon an explosive breakthrough. Their new creation—gunpowder—changed history and changed how we in the United States celebrate our nation’s independence.