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It's Elemental: The Hidden Chemistry in Everything

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In this fresh and engaging guide to chemistry, Dr. Kate Biberdorf, aka "Kate the Chemist," reveals the fascinating science we experience every day Have you ever wondered what makes dough rise? Or how your morning coffee gives you that energy boost? Or why your shampoo is making your hair look greasy? The answer is chemistry. From the moment we wake up until the time we go In this fresh and engaging guide to chemistry, Dr. Kate Biberdorf, aka "Kate the Chemist," reveals the fascinating science we experience every day Have you ever wondered what makes dough rise? Or how your morning coffee gives you that energy boost? Or why your shampoo is making your hair look greasy? The answer is chemistry. From the moment we wake up until the time we go to sleep (and even while we sleep), chemistry is at work—and it doesn't take a PhD in science to understand it. Dr. Biberdorf has appeared on TV programs from the Today show to The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, lighting the world on fire and changing the face of chemistry as we know it. In It's Elemental, she demystifies the fundamental principles of the science that may have eluded you in high school and shows how chemistry comes alive in everything we do. With wry wit and infectious enthusiasm, this entertaining guide will ignite your passion for science and change the way you experience the world.


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In this fresh and engaging guide to chemistry, Dr. Kate Biberdorf, aka "Kate the Chemist," reveals the fascinating science we experience every day Have you ever wondered what makes dough rise? Or how your morning coffee gives you that energy boost? Or why your shampoo is making your hair look greasy? The answer is chemistry. From the moment we wake up until the time we go In this fresh and engaging guide to chemistry, Dr. Kate Biberdorf, aka "Kate the Chemist," reveals the fascinating science we experience every day Have you ever wondered what makes dough rise? Or how your morning coffee gives you that energy boost? Or why your shampoo is making your hair look greasy? The answer is chemistry. From the moment we wake up until the time we go to sleep (and even while we sleep), chemistry is at work—and it doesn't take a PhD in science to understand it. Dr. Biberdorf has appeared on TV programs from the Today show to The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, lighting the world on fire and changing the face of chemistry as we know it. In It's Elemental, she demystifies the fundamental principles of the science that may have eluded you in high school and shows how chemistry comes alive in everything we do. With wry wit and infectious enthusiasm, this entertaining guide will ignite your passion for science and change the way you experience the world.

30 review for It's Elemental: The Hidden Chemistry in Everything

  1. 5 out of 5

    Erikka

    I really wanted to like this. I’ve seen her on various shows and heard her in podcasts, and I was so excited to read this book. And the first half was awesome! She explained chemistry in a way I’ve never really been able to understand. Part 1 is a solid 4 stars. Then…part 2 started. While I love the concept of showing how your every day life is chemistry, this was so boring I could barely stay awake. It wasn’t compelling, it didn’t teach me anything new, and it was weirdly personal? Like…I felt I really wanted to like this. I’ve seen her on various shows and heard her in podcasts, and I was so excited to read this book. And the first half was awesome! She explained chemistry in a way I’ve never really been able to understand. Part 1 is a solid 4 stars. Then…part 2 started. While I love the concept of showing how your every day life is chemistry, this was so boring I could barely stay awake. It wasn’t compelling, it didn’t teach me anything new, and it was weirdly personal? Like…I felt like I was in her bathroom with her instead of just learning about generic science. It was odd. I got to her makeup routine before I called it quits.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Meg Macgill

    Such a neat book,but she started to get very technical for my brain and I just couldn't go on. Loved the beginning portion though! Such a neat book,but she started to get very technical for my brain and I just couldn't go on. Loved the beginning portion though!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Lynne

    This book was okay. The author explained some chemistry principles and then highlighted some real-life applications of the principles. I was entertained, and I did learn some things. We slogged through a LOT of chemistry to get to "the good stuff" and I was hoping for more cool ways to use my new-found chemistry expertise, but the payoff was pretty nominal. I never did find out the promised answer to why I should not switch around my shampoos and I didn't learn much about skin care products or h This book was okay. The author explained some chemistry principles and then highlighted some real-life applications of the principles. I was entertained, and I did learn some things. We slogged through a LOT of chemistry to get to "the good stuff" and I was hoping for more cool ways to use my new-found chemistry expertise, but the payoff was pretty nominal. I never did find out the promised answer to why I should not switch around my shampoos and I didn't learn much about skin care products or hair. The author was over the top with her excitement about chemistry, and that was irritating at times, as were her efforts to be cute. My review is significantly affected by a passage at the end of the book, and I would have given a higher rating but for this. A little before the acknowledgement, the author asked "Have you ever heard the old fable about two fish swimming along a river?" She proceeded to relate a story that was not a “fable” at all. It was the original idea of the brilliant David Foster Wallace, expressed during his 2005 Commencement address to the graduates of Kenyon College. The speech is known as "This is Water,” and everyone should read it or listen to the recording. David Foster Wallace must be given proper attribution for that work.

  4. 5 out of 5

    A. M. Kimber

    :: Thank you Netgalley for the free ARC in exchange for an honest review :: I’ve never been one for science, it’s always fascinated me but always seemed too smart for my lame brain, which was why I was kind-of excited for ‘It’s Elemental’. It seemed like the perfect bridge to understand the science of what makes the world the world and, for the most part, it was. I really enjoyed the first half of the book, the author managed to bring history and science together and made leaning about atoms and :: Thank you Netgalley for the free ARC in exchange for an honest review :: I’ve never been one for science, it’s always fascinated me but always seemed too smart for my lame brain, which was why I was kind-of excited for ‘It’s Elemental’. It seemed like the perfect bridge to understand the science of what makes the world the world and, for the most part, it was. I really enjoyed the first half of the book, the author managed to bring history and science together and made leaning about atoms and protons fun. I loved the examples (Hello, Ryan Reynolds), they helped me piece it all together and actually understand what I was reading… Unfortunately, the second half of the book dealt with the science behind our everyday (cleaning, cooking, alcohol and strangely enough, her makeup routine) and wasn’t as fun. The examples helped but just didn’t have the charm as Ryan Reynolds, but then again what does? Overall, it was a good read and I don’t feel as scientifically incompetent as I did going in, and for that, I’d recommend it.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Christy

    This book would be a great refresher for anyone who left chemistry behind in high school or college. The author describes Part I as equivalent to a six week introductory course, and I think she does a great job making chemistry accessible. She covers everything you need to understand Part II, where the author explains the chemistry of everyday life, from cooking to cleansers to sunsets. This is a four-star book for me and not five stars because throughout most of Part II I kept wishing for more This book would be a great refresher for anyone who left chemistry behind in high school or college. The author describes Part I as equivalent to a six week introductory course, and I think she does a great job making chemistry accessible. She covers everything you need to understand Part II, where the author explains the chemistry of everyday life, from cooking to cleansers to sunsets. This is a four-star book for me and not five stars because throughout most of Part II I kept wishing for more depth. I wanted to know a little bit more about a number of the things she mentioned, but she jumped to the next topic too quickly for me. I think either a longer book or fewer topics would make for a more satisfying read, because I don’t think I will retain much from the short explanations of so many topics.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen Gray

    I gotta tell you- I learned more about chemistry from this entertaining book about chemistry than I did in my academic career. That's because Biberdorf, after taking the reader through the basics, actually applies the principles by explaining how chemical reactions are critical to our daily lives. Starting with coffee and getting dressed and moving throughout the day, it's revelatory. I know not to put dishwashing liquid in the dishwasher but not why, really (beyond the fact that it creates a me I gotta tell you- I learned more about chemistry from this entertaining book about chemistry than I did in my academic career. That's because Biberdorf, after taking the reader through the basics, actually applies the principles by explaining how chemical reactions are critical to our daily lives. Starting with coffee and getting dressed and moving throughout the day, it's revelatory. I know not to put dishwashing liquid in the dishwasher but not why, really (beyond the fact that it creates a mess). It's written in a colloquial manner with relevant anecdotes. Thanks to the publisher for the ARC. Perfect for readers who like to learn but also recommended for students who might want an accessible if brief insight into the subject.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Andrea

    If, like me, your painful memories of college chemistry are the stuff of nightmares, you may shy away from a book written by a chemistry professor intended to enlighten us about the importance of chemistry in our lives. But, Kate Biberdorf, like the prof we wish we had, firmly guides the reader through the elementary principles of chemistry we didn’t learn or don’t remember and then rewards us with witty and interesting explanations of the chemistry of objects from coffee beans to swimsuits and If, like me, your painful memories of college chemistry are the stuff of nightmares, you may shy away from a book written by a chemistry professor intended to enlighten us about the importance of chemistry in our lives. But, Kate Biberdorf, like the prof we wish we had, firmly guides the reader through the elementary principles of chemistry we didn’t learn or don’t remember and then rewards us with witty and interesting explanations of the chemistry of objects from coffee beans to swimsuits and why the chemistry of everyday life matters. I feel smarter after reading this but also intrigued by the way basic science can explain so much of our everyday lives.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Nellie

    I am not a science person but my 2 of my 6 homeschooled children love science. I am reading science books with the hopes that I can love science like they do. One will be a marine biologist. The other is studying astrophysics with the hopes of working at NASA. This book makes chemistry very relatable as chemistry is every where. We are just not aware of this fact. The book starts out with the building blocks of science the atom. It is evident that Dr. Kate Biberdorf wants everyone to appreciate ch I am not a science person but my 2 of my 6 homeschooled children love science. I am reading science books with the hopes that I can love science like they do. One will be a marine biologist. The other is studying astrophysics with the hopes of working at NASA. This book makes chemistry very relatable as chemistry is every where. We are just not aware of this fact. The book starts out with the building blocks of science the atom. It is evident that Dr. Kate Biberdorf wants everyone to appreciate chemistry. Her enthusiasm for subject is contagious. Great book

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jenn of The Bookish Society

    This new chemistry book explains everything in your daily life regarding how it is, well, elemental. And hey, either you forgot, or no one told you- everything is. This isn't the boring part of chemistry that you read in your old textbook- this is interesting, and once you start diving into rekindling your thirst for education, it is books such as this one that make humans love to learn. So I'm making it one of the spines of our homeschool high school chemistry class. This new chemistry book explains everything in your daily life regarding how it is, well, elemental. And hey, either you forgot, or no one told you- everything is. This isn't the boring part of chemistry that you read in your old textbook- this is interesting, and once you start diving into rekindling your thirst for education, it is books such as this one that make humans love to learn. So I'm making it one of the spines of our homeschool high school chemistry class.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Julie Huskey

    “I strongly believe we can make the world a better place with a love of science,” says the author in the Introduction. Yet, as Dr. Biberdorf acknowledges, chemistry is a largely unloved discipline. Like almost all books in the crowded science-for-the-general-reader section, Chemistry on Fire aims to make the subject less intimidating and more relevant, and it succeeds to a large extent. The first four chapters describe the basics, such as atomic structure and bonding, and the last eight explain “I strongly believe we can make the world a better place with a love of science,” says the author in the Introduction. Yet, as Dr. Biberdorf acknowledges, chemistry is a largely unloved discipline. Like almost all books in the crowded science-for-the-general-reader section, Chemistry on Fire aims to make the subject less intimidating and more relevant, and it succeeds to a large extent. The first four chapters describe the basics, such as atomic structure and bonding, and the last eight explain the chemistry behind our everyday activities, such as cooking, cleaning, exercise, and putting food in coolers. Overall, it's accessible and generally easy to follow. It would be a good introduction for a teenager thinking of taking a formal course, or for adults wondering what they missed by not studying the discipline. A few references to popular culture may date the book too quickly, but it's a good -- although not absolutely essential -- purchase for public, high school, and undergraduate libraries.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Juanita

    Very easy to understand explanation of the nitty gritty of chemistry. She explains things in a way that helps you visualize it. I wish I had this back when i was in school. This would be a good companion book to someone taking a basic chemistry course. I didn't finish the audiobook because i just wasn't in the mood,but I listened to a few chapters before i switched to a fluff book and they were well done. Very easy to understand explanation of the nitty gritty of chemistry. She explains things in a way that helps you visualize it. I wish I had this back when i was in school. This would be a good companion book to someone taking a basic chemistry course. I didn't finish the audiobook because i just wasn't in the mood,but I listened to a few chapters before i switched to a fluff book and they were well done.

  12. 4 out of 5

    rachel

    A wonderful introduction to chemistry for non chemists! I have to say, as a chemist (PhD candidate) I found this novel a little simplistic at times- but honestly? Thats the whole point. It is supposed to be reachable to wider audiences!' I think this would be a great book to give to a high schooler interested in science (particularly the science behind how things work). A wonderful introduction to chemistry for non chemists! I have to say, as a chemist (PhD candidate) I found this novel a little simplistic at times- but honestly? Thats the whole point. It is supposed to be reachable to wider audiences!' I think this would be a great book to give to a high schooler interested in science (particularly the science behind how things work).

  13. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    Thanks to NetGalley for a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review! I really expected to like this--it sounded like nerd heaven. I could just never get involved in it, though, especially the very basic opening chapters, and then the later chapters felt mechanical and forced. I'm sorry it wasn't my thing, and I hope it is just what someone else needs. Thanks to NetGalley for a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review! I really expected to like this--it sounded like nerd heaven. I could just never get involved in it, though, especially the very basic opening chapters, and then the later chapters felt mechanical and forced. I'm sorry it wasn't my thing, and I hope it is just what someone else needs.

  14. 4 out of 5

    P Mc

    I like the girl's rock approach to chemistry by the author. I like how she connects this field to ordinary life. I might give this book to a young girl. I absorbed most of the material in high school and college and often tutored it. I love the earthy approach. I like the girl's rock approach to chemistry by the author. I like how she connects this field to ordinary life. I might give this book to a young girl. I absorbed most of the material in high school and college and often tutored it. I love the earthy approach.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Roxanne Spencer

    Great engaging description of why chemistry is so fascinating. This books succeeds in presenting central concepts without over simplifying them. Recommended for any one who's interested in chemistry and the molecules they encounter everyday. Great engaging description of why chemistry is so fascinating. This books succeeds in presenting central concepts without over simplifying them. Recommended for any one who's interested in chemistry and the molecules they encounter everyday.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Marie

    There are two fish swimming along a river. An older fish comes up to them and says Good Morning. How's the water? The two fish look at each other and one asks, What's water? Science is a way of thinking much more that it is a body of knowledge. There are two fish swimming along a river. An older fish comes up to them and says Good Morning. How's the water? The two fish look at each other and one asks, What's water? Science is a way of thinking much more that it is a body of knowledge.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Robert A

    99% of people don’t really care about double bonds or ATP or Saran Wrap. I have a chemistry background so I found it somewhat interesting but wouldn’t recommend the book to the average Barnes and Noble customer.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Bookclubbish

    Categories Applied Sciences, History of Science

  19. 5 out of 5

    Dayna

    My husband taught high school chemistry for years and pretty much anytime he talks about chemistry or tries to explain something my eyes glaze over and I loose the thread once he gets beyond the most rudimentary concepts. My own high school chemistry experience was so awful that it turned me off of science for a very long time. I saw the author (known better as Kate the Chemist) speak at the Simmons Leadership Conference a few years ago, and she was great! She did some chemistry demonstrations bu My husband taught high school chemistry for years and pretty much anytime he talks about chemistry or tries to explain something my eyes glaze over and I loose the thread once he gets beyond the most rudimentary concepts. My own high school chemistry experience was so awful that it turned me off of science for a very long time. I saw the author (known better as Kate the Chemist) speak at the Simmons Leadership Conference a few years ago, and she was great! She did some chemistry demonstrations but more importantly talked about women's leadership in STEM. Between the talk, which made quite an impact, and my desire to understand my husband's work stories better, I had to read this book. The first section goes over the basics in a really understandable way. Concepts that I remembered being confused by in the past suddenly became clear. Biberdorf has a gift for explaining chemistry. She starts easy and breaks everything down into manageable chunks. Then she goes over various real-life applications of chemistry. Some are more interesting and some are less interesting. The most memorable parts of the book for me were when she explained the chemistry of the human body; I was fascinated! Overall I would recommend the book as a clear way to get an overview of chemistry, even if you've found the subject intimidating or confusing in the past. I would definitely read future books by Biberdorf. Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of this book.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Bennett Suttles

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jim Thomas

  22. 5 out of 5

    R

  23. 4 out of 5

    Maddie

  24. 5 out of 5

    Mark

  25. 5 out of 5

    Brian M.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Cody Blume

  27. 5 out of 5

    Zakariya

  28. 5 out of 5

    Alice

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Nicole

  30. 5 out of 5

    Chrystelle Lessard

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