Boom! Did you hear that explosion? It sounded like a thousand sticks of dynamite blowing up at once. Can you imagine what that might look and sound like?

If you’re a fan of cartoons, you may have seen Wile E. Coyote and Roadrunner playing with dynamite from time to time. Isn’t it amazing how they never seem to get hurt? Of course, unlike in cartoons, real dynamite is a powerful explosive that can be very damaging.

Dynamite was invented in 1867 by Alfred Nobel. If you’re wondering, yes, it’s the same Alfred Nobel who started and funded the Nobel Prizes for scientific and cultural achievements. His invention of dynamite made him very wealthy, which allowed him to fund what have become some of the most prestigious awards in the world.

Before dynamite, the strongest explosive was gunpowder. Unfortunately, it wasn’t strong enough for many needs and it also was dangerous to handle. Dynamite solved these problems by being both much stronger and much safer to handle.

Dynamite was used then — and still is today — in the construction, mining, quarrying and demolition industries. It also was used initially as a military weapon, although other weapons soon made dynamite obsolete.

Nobel didn’t really invent a new explosive when he developed dynamite. The explosive in dynamite — nitroglycerin — already existed. The problem with nitroglycerin, though, is that it’s very unstable and very dangerous to handle.

Nobel’s invention made the nitroglycerin safer to handle. He did this by soaking it into a soft, chalky stone called diatomaceous earth. Today, diatomaceous earth is also often used to make cat litter.

When soaked in diatomaceous earth, the nitroglycerin was much harder to set off and thus safer to handle. Later on, other substances, such as sawdust and cellulose, were often substituted for diatomaceous earth.

Dynamite is formed into explosive sticks that feature a wick and a blasting cap. The wick is lit, which leads to a small explosion when it reaches the blasting cap. When the blasting cap explodes, the nitroglycerin then causes a much larger explosion.

Some people believe the burning wick actually sets off the nitroglycerin. In reality, a stick of dynamite can be burned without exploding. It’s the small explosion of the blasting cap that is required to cause the nitroglycerin to explode.

You may see some explosives labeled “TNT” that look like dynamite. TNT stands for trinitrotoluene, which is also an explosive but quite different from dynamite. Dynamite is actually much more powerful than TNT.

44 Join the Discussion

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars  (39 votes, avg. 4.62 out of 5)
  1. No! :( I was wrong again. Today’s wonder of the day is not about balloons. However, I loved today’s wonder! :D I think tomorrow’s wonder of the day is about machines that act like people.


    • Happy Friday, TJ! We’re so glad you enjoyed today’s Wonder and that you are joining us for SUPER FUN learning in Wonderopolis during your summer vacation! Thanks for being a WONDERful Wonder Friend! :-)

  2. Hi. We enjoyed today’s Wonder. Noah is going to comment for us today.

    I think the video was really cool. The links are good. My favourite was the stadium implosion. Why do cartoons like bugs bunny or the roadrunner have so much dynamite and explosions in them??? I bet tomorrow’s wonder will be about robots.

    • Hi, Noah and Ms. G’s other WONDER students! Thanks for visiting today’s Wonder of the Day® and leaving us another AMAZING comment!

      We agree with you, Noah…the stadium implosion video was really cool. We liked how you could see the small explosions happening around the bottom of the stadium before the whole thing started to collapse. We think cartoons might show dynamite and explosions because of the same reason we all liked watching the real videos of explosions in today’s Wonder…it’s a super neat process to witness! :-)

  3. When I watch videos of things exploding, I wonder if they are using dynamite.
    I also wonder if and how they use dynamite in sea mines.

    I think tomorrow’s Wonder is about robots.

    • Thanks so much for sharing such a COOL comment with us today, Charlie! We like all that GREAT extra WONDERing you did about dynamite! We think robots would be super fun to WONDER about, so we can’t wait to see if your guess for tomorrow’s Wonder is correct! :-)

  4. Hi. I’m Chasen from Ms. G’s class. I know a lot of cartoons with dynamite in them like bugs bunny and yosemite sam. I think a lot of times I have seen explosions and things like that :D. I LIKE the video. I am wondering what the next one will be.

    • We WONDER what the next Wonder of the Day® will be, too, Chasen! Thank you for hanging out in Wonderopolis with us today…we really like your comment! :-)

  5. I was wrong. But I love this wonder. I love fire and stuff that explodes. I enjoyed learning how dynamite works. Thanks so much!!

    • Hi there boyWONDER! Thanks for letting us know that you enjoyed visiting this Wonder of the Day®! We think it was neat to learn all about how dynamite was invented and how it works, too. WONDERing is FUN, isn’t it? :-)

  6. I was wrong once again about the wonder today. :P I thought this wonder and the video were really cool! Tomorrow’s wonder is definitely about robots!

    • We like your guess for the next Wonder, LKvolleyballGirl! We can’t wait to visit Wonderopolis tomorrow to see what we will all be WONDERing about! :-)

  7. Hi wonderopolis! I am sad ’cause my sister went away for overnight camp for a week. :( But I am going for 3 weeks at an overnight camp next month!!!:) But anyways, I think tomorrow’s wonder will be about a robot!!!

    • We think overnight summer camps are SUPER FUN, Julia! There are LOTS of opportunities to WONDER! We’re sure your sister appreciates how much you care about her and that you miss her, but she’ll be back soon and then you guys can visit Wonderopolis together again! Have a GREAT weekend! :-)

  8. Hi, I’m Brady. I am also from Ms. G’s class. I love watching bugs bunny. I can’t wait for tomorrow’s wonder. Brady

    • We think it’s so SUPER awesome that you are excited about tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day®, Brady…we are, too! Thanks for sharing that you are a WONDERful student of Ms. G. You guys sure do a lot of AMAZING WONDERing and we LOVE your comments! :-)

  9. The BOOM idea makes this look like the 4th of July, which is why you talk about TNT and dynamite. And I know what tomorrow’s wonder is, drum roll, please”ddddddddddddddddddd!”ROBOTS! Because it said “act like people!”

  10. Can you guys do a Wonder on Tasmanian Devils??!! They’re soo awesome!!
    I think tomorrow’s Wonder will probably be about artificial limbs.

    p.s. If its not, can you do one on artificial limbs?

  11. Hi
    I’m also from Mrs. G’s class. The wonderopolis stuff is cool. I like
    the part when the stick of dynamite
    blew up the building.

    Bye, see you tomorrow!!!!

    • It makes us super happy to hear that you think Wonderopolis is cool, Chase! We think YOU and your classmates (and Ms. G) are super cool, too! Thanks for sharing what your favorite part of the video for this Wonder was. We appreciate you letting us know! :-)

  12. Dear Wonderopolis,
    Cool wonder! Dynamite is a type of bomb or explosive and when lit with a match or some sort of fire giver, it will take a few seconds for the fire to reach the end of the rope and explode. I also love the song by Taio Cruz!!! I think tomorrow’s wonder is about robots or glaciers.

    Paige =D

    • We sure do appreciate hearing your thoughts about dynamite, Paige! Thanks for sharing them with your friends in Wonderopolis today! :-)

    • Hi, Abbey! We’re sure glad you liked the video! You and your classmates are WONDERful Wonder Friends for visiting Wonderopolis and leaving us comments! :-)

  13. Hey,
    I am also from Mrs. G’s class.
    I <3 watching cartoons and movies with explosions in it and I love the song Dynamite by Taio Cruz. :)
    T T Y L (talk to you later).

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts about explosions and dynamite, Jessica! We really like your comment and hope we will get to “TTYL” through your awesome comments to our Wonders of the Day! :-)

    • It makes us really happy to hear that, Julie! We’re so glad you love learning and exploring Wonders in Wonderopolis! You are an AWESOME Wonder Friend! :-)

  14. Sorry that I didn’t put an actual name and stuff but I just didn’t want to give out personal info. Thank you guys so much for this info. It’s helping me so much on a science project for school. Most other sites are just copyrighting “Not Trustworthy” stuff from like Wikipedia and :-)

    • Great, Wonder Friend! We are so glad that we are able to help you with your school project! Keep WONDERing with us! :-)

    • Good question, Max. Dynamite was invented to help in the construction, mining, quarrying and demolition industries. Why do you think these industries might need dynamite? Happy WONDERing! :)

  15. I loved today’s wonder. It’s SO awesome! Someday, will you make one on how thread is made? I think that’ debate cool too (if there already is one let me know).

    • We agree, Max, that is a pretty AMAZING fact! Thanks for letting us know that you learned something new from today’s Wonder of the Day! We hope you join us again soon! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • How does dynamite work?
  • Are dynamite and TNT the same?
  • What is dynamite used for today?

Wonder Gallery Video

Try It Out

Did you think today’s Wonder of the Day was dynamite? We hope so! Grab a friend or family member and try one or more of the activities below. They’re sure to blow your mind!

  • Dynamite is too dangerous to play or experiment with, so check out these cool dynamite videos instead to see dynamite in action:
  • Do you think it’s strange that dynamite was invented by Alfred Nobel, who also established the Nobel Prizes? Learn more about the Swedish chemist and the prestigious awards he created at the official site.
  • Many people think dynamite and TNT are the same thing, but we know from today’s Wonder that’s not true. Do some research and find out how they compare and contrast. Can you think of a hypothetical situation (one that’s made up) when it would be better to use dynamite than TNT? What about the other way around–when would it be better to have TNT instead of dynamite? Share your ideas in the Join the Discussion section!


Still Wondering

Check out ReadWriteThink’s Dynamite Diamante Poetry lesson to introduce gerunds and review nouns, adjectives and verbs through engaging read-alouds.

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