Half a million years ago our ancestors learned to make fire from scratch. They crafted intricate tools from stone and brewed mind-altering elixirs from honey. Their descendants transformed clay into pottery, wool into clothing, and ashes into cleansers. In ceramic crucibles they turned rock into metal, metal into colored glazes, and glazes into glass. Buildings of brick and mortar enshrined books of parchment and paper. Kings and queens demanded ever more colorful clothing and accessories in order to out-class clod-hoppers and call-girls. Kingdoms rose and fell by the power of saltpeter, sulfur, and charcoal. And the demands of everyday folk for glass and paper and soap stimulated the first round of chemical industrialization. From sulfuric acid to sodium carbonate. From aniline dyes to analgesic drugs. From blasting powder to fertilizers and plastics. In a phrase, “from Caveman to Chemist.”
Caveman Chemistry is an experiential exploration of chemical technology from the campfires of the stone age to the plastic soft-drink bottle. An experiential exploration? Not only will you learn about these technologies, you will learn to recreate them. Instructions are given for making bronze from metal ores; glass from sand, ashes, and limestone; paper from grass or straw; soap from fat; alcohol from honey; photographs from egg whites; chlorine from salt water and celluloid from cotton.
Your guides on this journey are the four alchemical elements; Fire, Earth, Air and Water. These archetypal characters deliver first-hand accounts of the births of their respective technologies. The spirit of Fire, for example, was born in the first creature to cultivate the flame. This spirit passed from one person to another, from one generation to another, from one millennium to another, arriving at last in the pages of this book. The spirit of Earth taught folks to make tools of stone, the spirit of Air imparted knowledge of units and the spirit of Water began with the invention of “spirits.” Having traveled the world from age to age, who can say where they will find their next home? Perhaps they will find one in you.
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