• The Alchemy of Us

  • How Humans and Matter Transformed One Another
  • By: Ainissa Ramirez
  • Narrated by: Allyson Johnson
  • Length: 7 hrs and 53 mins
  • 4.4 out of 5 stars (384 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

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; and how a young chemist exposed the use of Polaroid's cameras to create passbooks to track black citizens in apartheid South Africa.

Ramirez shows not only 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 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.

©2020 Ainissa Ramirez (P)2020 Gildan Media

What listeners say about The Alchemy of Us

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Excellent Content, Horrible Narration

The content is highly engaging but the narration is choppy and robotic. I urge Audible to release this book again with better narration.

42 people found this helpful

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interesting stories told badly

Poor writing. Too much repetitive picture painting. Not enough storytelling. Apparently I have five words remaining to submit this review.

28 people found this helpful

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Gives a whole new perspective

Everyone has heard the same stories of Einstein and Newton and Edison but this book goes into the other inventors that have changed the world with little to no credit. I love how with each invention, we learn about how humans started living differently because of it in ways you might not have though of. The author wanted to make science and inventors more human, relatable, and within reach and she did achieve that. It was educational but still very easy to read. I didn’t love the narrator though. I first heard about this book when the author was a guest on Bill Nye’s podcast (Science Rules) and she was a great speaker so I though she might be narrating. She spoke about having another project in the works so whenever she has another book out I’ll read it for sure.

18 people found this helpful

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Informative, pleasant and interesting

The book contains a great deal of useful knowledge, both scientific and historical. For instance, the telling and recording of accurate time is a quite recent phenomenon and has completely changed the way we live. Making a reliably consistent spring for clocks depended on advancements in metallurgy.

Likewise the invention of electric lighting changed everything as to how we sleep and how we can now be productive after dark. The traditional first sleep and second sleep as documented in Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” is now considered a sleep disturbance by many, though it probably was throughout history - just normal.

She discusses scientific discoveries and the competitive application of them and how it affected the way we live.

Quite a nice pleasant and productive read! Also I find it refreshing that she is a black female author who wrote a book that is entirely non racial.

16 people found this helpful

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Heard about it on NPR

The author of the book came on NPR for an interview and I was instantly hooked into the concept. I’ve always been intrigued by the motivation of why/how things are invented. The book takes it too a new level of meaning of how certain pieces of science / technology have enriched our lives and perhaps negatively impacted us.

15 people found this helpful

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Eye opening and empowering

This book is a brilliant tapestry of the human experience with invention, creation, and being. As we create we participate in our own evolution, in a way becoming unintentional creators of ourselves. Ms Ramirez’s presentation of this insight is excellently executed. A real page turner suitable for binge “reading” or listening.

9 people found this helpful

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Must Read Diverse historical account

the book brought warmth and soulful understanding. That even through history we struggle and not one person invented it all. Humans are collaborators.

8 people found this helpful

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Gladwellian telling of scientific history

Expertly read and audibly performed, Ramirez's telling of civilization changing brainchildren birthed by well-known and little celebrated scientist inventors is perfect for a curious mind interested in the 'how' of Homo sapiens creation of today's civilization with the help of such things as time pieces, Bessemer steel, railroads, photographs, recorded data, light bulbs, scientific glass, and telephone switches actually occurred.

6 people found this helpful

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Great content insipidez narration

This is a very entertaining end though provoking book. It’s narration, however, is too robot like.

6 people found this helpful

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Wonderful wonderful wonderful book

I loved this book! The science was fascinating, and the stories were compelling. The author has an amazing way with words.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Truespeaking89
  • 08-21-21

brilliant and engaging

I loved the book. science should be taught this way, i.e. a blend of technical and the people behind the science.

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  • Adot
  • 10-02-20

Awesome Book for everyday people

This is an awesome book, I think Ainissa did a excellent work to packing enough information about popular materials and innovation for the everyday person to pickup and read.

The narrator Allyson also did a fantastic Job on the Audio, This is a really good Audiobook