Eye-catching covers have been a regular feature of Physics World magazine ever since we started out 30 years ago, as you can see from this video of our favourites of all time. But I have to admit it’s far easier some months to find a good cover image, as you’ll see from the December 2018 edition of Physics World.

That’s because the lead feature in this month’s issue is all about the physics of fireworks. Sourcing good images of these beautiful explosions was a blast; in fact you could say we were fizzing with options.

Firework displays can be spectacular – and you may be looking forward to one on New Year’s Eve – but have you ever wondered how people organising massive public displays plan what they’ll look like? Fireworks are “one-shot” products so planning them can’t be easy.

In the feature, Pierre Thebault, former deputy general director of the LACROIX Group, explains the history and science of fireworks. He’s one of a band of “pyrotechnicians” constantly seeking new ways to create more spectacular fireworks that are safer and do less damage to the environment too.

Elsewhere in the issue, you can enjoy our pick of the best festive reads in our bumper end-of-year reviews section, find out why this year’s Nobel Prize for Physics will be good for business, and explore the research into games that can put quantum computers through their paces.

You can enjoy the December 2018 issue of Physics World magazine via our digital apps for iOS, Android and Web browsers. (membership of the Institute of Physics required). Let us know what you think about the issue on Twitter, Facebook or by e-mailing us at pwld@iop.org.

For the record, here’s a run-down of what’s in the issue.

• A united society for Europe – The European Physical Society has been a voice for physicists in the continent for 50 years. Rüdiger Voss, its current president, talks to Matin Durrani about the challenges ahead

• Beauty and the biased – A recent talk at CERN about gender in physics highlighted the widespread biases that litter science. Philip Moriarty says we need to do more to tackle such issues head on

• Nobel impact – With this year’s Nobel Prize for Physics being awarded for “groundbreaking inventions in laser physics”, James McKenzie examines the value of basic research to business

• The X-reality files – Robert P Crease seeks your suggestions for novelists and artists who use physics to reach deeper truths

• Whizz-bang science – Fireworks have become a hallmark of celebrations around the world. Pierre Thebault looks beyond the bright colours and loud bangs, to the array of scientific methods that pyrotechnicians use to improve the safety, environmental impact and spectacle of fireworks

• Game on – Creating games for quantum computers offers an engaging way of exploring and testing their capabilities, writes James Wootton

• A graphic tale of entanglement – James Kalakios reviews Totally Random – Why Nobody Understands Quantum Mechanics: a Serious Comic on Entanglement by Tanya Bub and Jeffrey Bub

• The quantum heretics – Iain Dale-Trotter reviews What is Real: the Unfinished Quest for the Meaning of Quantum Physics by Adam Becker

• Thirteen tales that must be told – Jessica Wade reviews Wally Funk’s Race for Space: the Extraordinary Story of a Female Aviation Pioneer by Sue Nelson

• Strings and theories – Achintya Rao reviews When the Uncertainty Principle Goes to 11: Or How to Explain Quantum Physics with Heavy Metal by Philip Moriarty

• Newton: egomaniac or troubled genius? – Andrew Robinson reviews Isaac Newton: the Asshole Who invented the Universe by Florian Freistetter

• The first step – Tushna Commissariat reviews First Man directed by Damien Chazelle

• Fuelling the planet – Working at the interface of academia and industry in the energy sector makes for exciting research, as John Irvine tells Anna Demming

• Once a physicist – Meet Paul Bate, director of NHS services at Babylon Health.

• Winter yarns – Top of our wishlists this Christmas are these physics-related festive jumpers, created by Physics World features editor Sarah Tesh.