Additional fun facts and information to accompany our Flash Bang Wallop show

Flash Bang Wallop!

Combustion Triangle & Tetrahedron

The 'fire triangle' or 'combustion triangle' is a simple model for understanding the ingredients needed to create a fire: heat, fuel, and oxygen. Without all three of these present you cannot burn anything, so you can extinguish a fire by removing any one of these things.

The fire tetrahedron adds one more element to the fire triangle. It adds the requirement for the presence of a chemical reaction to keep the fire burning.

Sometimes the reaction may involve metals such as lithium, magnesium or titanium. These metals react faster with water than with oxygen. Putting water on these fires results in the fire getting hotter or even exploding as the metals react with the water, which is why we have different fire extinguishers for different types of fires. Knowing how to extinguish fires containing different materials can save lives!

Energy Transfer

An energy transfer is the transfer of energy from one form to another. During an explosion, the heat is converted to heat, light, sound and movement. You can clearly see all these transfers of energy with fireworks.


Factfile: Red Adair

Lived: 1915-2004
Occupation: Firefighter
Claims to Fame:
• Developed the use of explosive charges to cap fires.
• Fought over 2000 oil and natural gas fires including “the devils cigarette lighter” in the Sahara, a 450 ft pillar of flame which burned for over 5 months!
• This event formed the story for the 1968 film 'Hellfighters', and Adair himself was played by John Wayne!

Barbie Cannon

In our show, we fire Barbie out of a cannon using a butane explosion, however some people actually fire themselves out of cannons! These people are referred to as human cannonballs and used to be a common site at circuses. However they don't use explosions to fire themselves out of cannons, that could be messy, instead they propel themselves through the air using a spring or air pressure.

The first human cannonball at the Royal London Aquarium in 1877, was a 14 year old girl called Zazel. The world record for distance covered by a human cannonball is over 200ft.

Launchpad gallery links

Look at energy transfers going on around you and even on your own body using the Thermal Imaging Camera in our Launchpad gallery.

Or create an explosion to launch a Hydrogen Rocket!

Museum Objects

Have a look at some of the impressive examples of explosion technology in our collections.
V2 Rocket engine – See the V2 rocket engine in the Exploring Space gallery, which used liquid alcohol and liquid oxygen propellants to power its engine
Indian war rocket – This 18th century war rocket displays the four energy transfers that occur during an explosion, much like a fire work, but is used for warfare rather than entertainment
Bowl from Hiroshima- In our Making of the Modern World we have a bowl found in the ruins of the Hiroshima blast.

Related Links