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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 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—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.
Did you hear the one about the MacArthur genius physicist and the NFL coach? It's not a joke. It's actually an innovative way to understand chaos theory, and the remarkable complexity of modern professional football.
In Newton's Football, journalist and New York Times bestselling author Allen St. John and TED talker and former Yale professor Ainissa Ramirez explore the unexpected science behind America's Game. Whether it's Jerry Rice finding the common ground between quantum physics and the West Coast offense or an Ivy League biologist explaining--at a granular level--exactly how a Big Mac morphs into an outside linebacker, Newton's Football illuminates football--and science--through funny, insightful stories told by some of the world's sharpest minds.
With a clear-eyed empirical approach--and an exuberant affection for the game--St. John and Ramirez address topics that have long beguiled scientists and football fans alike, including:
* the unlikely evolution of the football (or, as they put it, "The Divinely Random Bounce of the Prolate Spheroid")
* what Vince Lombardi has in common with Isaac Newton
* how the hardwired behavior of monkeys can explain a head coach's reluctance to go for it on fourth-down
* why a gruesome elevator accident jump-started the evolution of placekicking
* how Teddy Roosevelt saved football using the same behavioral science concept that Dreamworks would use to save Shrek
* why woodpeckers don't get concussions
* how better helmets actually made the game more dangerous
Every Sunday the NFL shares a secret with only its savviest fans: The game isn't just a clash of bodies, it's a clash of ideas. The greatest minds in football have always possessed an instinctual grasp of science, understanding the big ideas and gritty realities that inform the game's rich past, as well as its increasingly uncertain future.
Blending smart reporting, counterintuitive creativity, and compelling narrative, Newton's Football takes gridiron analysis to the next level, giving fans a book that entertains, enlightens, and explains the game anew.
From the Hardcover edition.