The Alchemy of Us: How Humans and Matter Transformed One Another

The Alchemy of Us: How Humans and Matter Transformed One Another

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non-fiction, , 2020, net-galley, non-fiction, nonfiction, 2020-reading-challenge, couldn-t-finish, history, history, science, science, non-fiction, history, non-fiction, liked-it, Science, Nonfiction, History, Audiobook, Psychology, Cultural

In the bestselling tradition of Stuff Matters and The Disappearing Spoon a clever and engaging look at materials, the innovations they made possible, and how these technologies changed us.

In The Alchemy of Us, scientist and science writer Ainissa Ramirez examines eight inventions--clocks, steel rails, copper communication cables, photographic film, light bulbs, hard disks, scientific labware, and silicon chips--and reveals how they shaped the human experience. Ramirez tells the stories of the woman who sold time, the inventor who inspired Edison, and the hotheaded undertaker whose invention pointed the way to the computer. She describes, among other things, how our pursuit of precision in timepieces changed how we sleep; how the railroad helped commercialize Christmas; how the necessary brevity of the telegram influenced Hemingway's writing style; and how a young chemist exposed the use of Polaroid's cameras to create passbooks to track black citizens in apartheid South Africa. These fascinating and inspiring stories offer new perspectives on our relationships with technologies.

Ramirez shows how materials were shaped by inventors, but also how those materials shaped culture, chronicling each invention and its consequences--intended and unintended. Filling in the gaps left by other books about technology, Ramirez showcases little-known inventors--particularly people of color and women--who had a significant impact but whose accomplishments have been hidden by mythmaking, bias, and convention. Doing so, she shows us the power of telling inclusive stories about technology. She also shows that innovation is universal--whether it's splicing beats with two turntables and a microphone or splicing genes with two test tubes and CRISPR.

Title:The Alchemy of Us: How Humans and Matter Transformed One Another
Edition Language:English
ISBN:9780262043809
Format Type:

    The Alchemy of Us: How Humans and Matter Transformed One Another Reviews

  • da AL

    Fun, informative, & essential reading for all! The author relays such wonderful insights that aren't just the average white guy author stuff -- this book illustrates perfectly how much we miss when we...

  • Mari

    3.5 starsThis is a difficult rating because I enjoyed everything but one thing about this book, but it s a one thing I can't quite let go of. Still, I appreciate Ramirez's point of view, her writing t...

  • Brian Clegg

    Materials science is one of the hardest topics to make interesting, probably only beaten in the potential dullness stakes by geology, but Ainissa Ramirez achieves the near-impossible of making the sub...

  • David

    Total "didja know?" sort of book. Selling time, second sleep, trains and timezones and that Frederick Douglass was the most photographed man of his time.Photography proved a hell of a chapter. I learn...

  • Geoff

    The impact of eight inventions are examined on (mostly US) society, and the author does a good job of showing how and why each invention arose and what problem it solved. these stories are fascinating...

  • Lynn

    Many years ago, I was fascinated by a television series entitled Connections and its host, James Burke. I was, therefore, totally interested in this book, which shows the connection between a seemingl...

  • Nguyen Thi Van Anh

    Humans have had a long collaborative relationship with the materials they create. From quartz clocks to steel railway rails, electric light to the internet, we may shape our technology, but our techno...

  • Kelly

    A super fascinating look at the world of materials science from the perspective of a Black woman. This last part is important, since there are so few nonfiction science reads from people of color, and...

  • beentsy

    Really interesting and wide ranging. Gave me so many more subjects and events I want to now read about....

  • Marta

    Ainissa Ramirez sets out to explore how science transforms materials and in turn, how the use of such scientific discoveries transform us. She endeavours to marry science with real human stories, espe...