The Big Bang

B1303

There have been only a small number of discoveries that have truly changed the world. One discovery was that of explosives. The author has begun his history with another monumental discovery, fire. Without the discovery of fire there would have been no explosives and without explosives there would have been no guns, no combustion engines, no aircraft, no submarines, no space travel, no fireworks, no bombs. There have been many claims and counter claims as to the time and place of the discovery of explosives. Some of the early materials used for fire birds and fire arrows are potentially explosive but no one can be sure whether the discovery of what came to be called gunpowder was a natural discovery inspired by some early incendiary materials, or by something very different. Equally, it is difficult to be sure whether the use of early explosive powders was as a propellant or as an explosive blast generator. Certainly, early gunpowder was used to power simple rockets, to propel projectiles and to make bombs. It was also used in various ways for entertainment in the form of fireworks. Explosives revolutionised society. Suddenly, armed might no longer depended on physical strength. Even early firearms could be used by man, woman and child from ambush. The pistol allowed anyone to get close to a target before firing. Canon enabled ships to fight at some distance from each other and for shot to prove fatal to large warships. Canon brought the dominance of castles and fixed fortifications to an end, making warfare mobile again. Explosives provided the means to cut through mountains and to destroy buildings across increasingly large areas. Combining the canon shell and explosives produced a bomb that could be delivered to a target from some distance. Eventually locomotive torpedoes and aerial bombs provided new and devastating ways of delivering explosives to a target. The author has traced all of this development through to its ultimate conclusion with the fission and fusion explosives that can destroy cities with a single weapon

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