Apparently I can't get enough of the sound of fireworks. NPR ran a piece on the science of the sounds of fireworks.
A pyrotechnician discusses how the sounds of fireworks are made and that fireworks don't have to be loud. Seems impossible but quiet fireworks are now available. My kids and I watched fireworks with some neighbors and most small children were wearing protective ear muffs like mine:
Each parent I talked to had a story about this kid or that kid being scared enough of fireworks to stay inside or cry or dislike the holiday altogether. Our family's dogs are typically sedated, left inside with the TV running and given lots and lots of treats. So quieter fireworks sound really good to me.
In a New York Times article about quiet fireworks they admit while these fireworks aren't completely silent they can be reduced drastically from their normal 150 dB to below the level of the accompanying music. Apparently, a small town in Italy actually passed a law that all fireworks must be quiet out of respect for their animals who can become agitated, scared or even run away.
Closer to home, military support groups distribute signs that say "A Combat Veteran Lives Here; Please Be Courteous With Fireworks." In some extreme cases the sounds can trigger violent attacks in veterans suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
One article made the point that planned firework shows often don't trigger these PTSD attacks as the sufferers know that they are coming. The unplanned fireworks that surprise them are the ones that can bring on a PTSD attack. This is an interesting social justice point to bring up with your physics students. Does "having a good time" justify the suffering of others?
Given the potential for serious hearing loss for adults, even more so for children, the negative affects on local veterans, animals and pets I hope to hear about more quiet fireworks being used.