The Alchemy of Us  


The Alchemy of Us
Mit Press | October 21, 2020 | 328 pages
ISBN: 9780262043809

"Excerpts from the Preface and Chapter 8: Materials Science, wedged as it is between the two better-known fields of Chemistry and Physics, teaches us that everything in our world is due to the interactions of atoms. If you can find out how they interact to make up the physical world, then you can also change the way that atoms act to make them do new things and, as we develop new materials, we discover that materials and humans are constantly being molded by each other. The Alchemy of Us shows how materials were shaped by inventors, but also how those materials shaped culture. Each chapter is titled with a verb to demonstrate how the meaning of that word was fashioned. Particularly, this book highlights how quartz clocks, steel rails, copper cables, silver photographic films, carbon light bulb filaments, magnetic disks, glass labware, and silicon chips radically altered how we interact, connect, convey, capture, see, share, discover, and think. The Alchemy of Us fills in the gaps of most books about technology by telling the tales of little-known inventors, or by taking a different angle to well-known ones. I chose to look at the gaps, at the silences in history, because they too are instructive about the makings of our culture. I highlight "others" to allow more people to see their reflection. I use storytelling with the hopes of bringing the wonder and fun of science to more people. This is a book about how materials and technology have evolved us as we have evolved them but it is also much, much more. It is a book written to inspire and the last paragraphs of the book sum it up beautifully. "Discussions about technology must be inclusive, because technology is neither just for the few who are learned, nor is it just for men who are of European descent. Everyone makes something, from a sandwich to a solar cell, so examinations of science and technology must reflect this. Every person can create something new, whether it is splicing beats with two turntables and a microphone or splicing genes with two test tubes and CRISPR. As such, stories about science and technology must reflect that innovation is universal." 'When books about technology reflect readers, those readers come away with more than just stories, but a sense that they can create, too. When books display the failings and failures of inventors, readers come away with the feeling they can meet challenges, too. When these readers feel empowered in these ways, they consequently feel emboldened to make decisions for themselves. This is the sensibility at the heart of this book. These pages illustrate not only that everyone has an admission ticket to create, but that everyone must also critically critique their creations. Such a thoughtful analysis of the impact of inventions benefits society not just because it is an entertaining cerebral exercise, but because, when coupled with action and social change, it has the potential to help society transcend its condition and favorably further this alchemy of us'"--