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Business Alchemy: Turning Ideas Into Gold - Isbn:9781468587852

  • Book Title: Business Alchemy: Turning Ideas Into Gold
  • ISBN 13: 9781468587852
  • ISBN 10: 1468587854
  • Author: William R. Cobb, M. L. Johnson Ed D. Ph. D., M. L. Johnson, Ph.d.
  • Category: Business & Economics
  • Category (general): Business & Economics
  • Publisher: AuthorHouse
  • Format & Number of pages: 410 pages, book
  • Synopsis: Cobb, W (2007). Tizrgeted Thctics- Transforming Strategy into Measurable Results. Philadelphia: Xlibris, Publisher. Collins, (2001). Good to great: Why some companies make the leap and others don't. New York: Harper/Collins Publishers.

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The Alchemy of Leadership: Transform leaden thinking into gold

The Alchemy of Leadership: Transforming leaden thinking into gold

The Alchemy of Leadership: Transforming leaden thinking into gold Linda Naiman 2016-06-10T16:56:18+00:00

The Alchemy of Leadership will help transform the way you live and work through imagination, creativity and innovation, to make life and work a work of art

Being a leader in the 21st century requires a new set of skills to thrive in a world that is increasingly volatile, uncertain and complex. Relying solely on problem-solving skills is insufficient.

Today’s leaders must also cultivate creativity and the ability to navigate complexity in order to thrive. One of the best ways to learn these skills is through the arts—not to become an artist, but as a way of thinking and perceiving.

An artful leader must know how to lead people creatively. Since all great art pushes boundaries beyond established norms, it can teach us about leadership, empathy, ambiguity, change, courage, and creativity. It makes sense therefore to learn principles and practices from the worlds of art & design, and apply them to business.

The arts take us on adventures in creative expression that help us safely explore unknown territory, overcome fear, and take conceptual risks.

Art-making has an alchemical effect on the imagination. Artistic processes create a crucible for transforming leaden thinking into the gold of wisdom.

Art-based activities can be used strategically to create safety, build trust, find shared values, shift perceptions and generate breakthrough ideas — by combining right-brain imagination with left-brain logic and analysis. Insights from art experiences inform leadership and inspire breakthrough ideas for innovation.

Explore the arts as an interdisciplinary catalyst for transformation in culture, creativity, identity, and your own personal development as a leader.

The Alchemy of Leadership:
Shifting from a Problem-focused Model
to Artful Creation

Art provides an opportunity for kaleidoscopic thinking. Each time we shift the lens of our perceptions, we gain new perspectives — and new opportunities for innovation. Arts based activities include drawing, painting, storytelling, theatre improvisation, music, photography and poetry.

Art can be used to penetrate the “heart questions” making it easier to discuss strategic dilemmas. Arts-based dialogue teaches leaders to look at an issue from multiple perspectives, make sense of the world we inhabit.

Artful reflection helps us sense patterns, decode complexity, make sense of the world in which we live, and explore new possibilities.

The art experience enhances our abilities to think in new and fresh ways about existing reality through critical reflection, reframing, and context shifting. The blank canvass becomes a metaphor for discovering the white space of opportunities.

Visual dialogues help people dig below the surface layer of perception, examine the figure/ground of underlying assumptions and evoke fresh thinking.

Theatre improvisation gives leaders rehearsal space to try out new ideas. Through Improv that we can observe the importance of trust, reliance, and individual contribution, as well as the vitality of learning from mistakes.

We can discover creative insights by building, shaping and sculpting ideas into prototypes to test concepts.

Alchemy of Leadership Workshops give participants the opportunity to practice these skills:

  • Inquiry that provokes new insights, connections, possibilities, and directions
  • Visual Literacy and Observation. The ability to observe, think critically and make meaning from images and information presented
  • Cross-pollinating ideas. Thinking together, across cultures, networks and disciplines
  • Connecting. Linking ideas that aren’t obviously related. Connecting the unconnected to produce new ideas
  • Experimenting intellectually and experientially. Learning by doing. Rehearsing “what if” options that lead to meaningful insights
  • Active Listening. Listening to learn, rather than gather ammunition for an argument
  • Reflecting through painting, contemplation, journal writing and dialogue to integrate theory with practice, and enhance learning, including learning from mistakes
  • Designing strategies, actions and viable solutions.

Each activity is tied to an organizational objective/challenge to stimulate fresh ideas about real-world challenges.

Alchemy of Leadership: Learning Outcomes & Benefits:

  • How art and design can improve business performance
  • Develop whole-brain thinking skills: Integrate Artistic and relational intelligence with analytical and operational intelligence.
  • Draw on artistic sensibilities to lead and run your organization.
  • Insights about coping with chaos, ambiguity, and complexity
  • Practical creativity techniques for individuals and groups
  • Creativity and innovation skills development
  • Improve communications and foster an appreciation for diverse and pluralistic points of view.
  • Paint a compelling vision of the future, and design a plan for action

Programs are customized to suit your organizational requirements, and include coaching support.
Designed for :

  • C-level executives
  • Directors, Managers & Team Leaders

Find out more about the Alchemy of Leadership.




ISBN: 0091802156 - The New Alchemists - OPENISBN Project: Download Book Data

The New Alchemists

A fascinating and inspirational investigation into the creative and entrepreneurial process.

What drives some people to create something from nothing? Is it ambition, the need for self-fulfillment? Is it about money, power, or even genes? Or, is there a mood of the time that encourages people, and can anyone do it?

The world needs new ideas, new products, new kinds of associations and institutions, new initiatives, art and designs. But these new things seldom come from established organizations. They come from individuals — Charles Handy calls them the New Alchemists, and he has talked to a range of extraordinary people — from Trevor Baylis and Richard Branson to Jane Tewson and Terence Conran — to hear from them the secret to turning basic ideas into creative gold. Elizabeth Handy has used her new style of composite portraits to highlight aspects of all the different alchemists in their particular environments.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Innovation Alchemy: Turning Ideas into Gold

Innovation Alchemy: Turning Ideas into Gold

Small but welcome improvements continue in the economic picture. Yet we remember having stared into the abyss of the global economic meltdown as though it were yesterday. With this economic near-death experience still so fresh, now may not seem the time for ambitious and aggressive investments in science and technology. But, in reality, this is the best possible time to embrace innovation.

At our respective organizations -- Intel and Caltech -- we are encouraging new approaches to the vital issues in our society where science and technology can make a contribution. Similar developments are being played out at research institutions and innovative companies throughout the U.S. Together with parallel developments in public policy, these give reason for excitement and hope for our country.

At Intel, the recent great recession and concerns about a slow and fragile recovery have inspired a renewed commitment to investing in the future at the intersection of technology and education. Good investment leads to ideas and discoveries that spawn new businesses, create jobs, and ultimately lead to a higher standard of living. Between 2003 and 2008, Intel put $50 billion to work in U.S. plant and equipment and research and development, and in 2009-2010 Intel is investing another $7 billion in U.S. manufacturing to produce silicon wafers with today's most advanced chipmaking technology. Intel also invests in longer-term and exploratory research with U.S. universities seeking breakthroughs not only in semiconductor technology but also in new applications and uses for information technology. In this process, we help encourage university students to become the engineers and scientists that create tomorrow's technology.

For Caltech, educational and research initiatives at the boundaries of scientific disciplines are inspiring some of the world's best minds to focus on game-changing technologies in areas critical to our future such as energy and health. Furthermore, the potential for transfer of scientific discoveries from academic labs to the commercial sector encourages students and faculty to consider the business potential of their work and benefits it can bring to society and the economy at large. Embracing this culture has had a transformative impact on knowledge and innovation at Caltech, encouraging faculty and staff to pursue patents aggressively and actively support startups founded upon faculty inventions. The highly selective community of scholars fostering cross-disciplinary interactions is only one model. Educational and research institutions of all kinds today make up the sustainable foundation of our country's innovation.

Meanwhile -- and despite the economic challenges facing the nation -- the Obama Administration is rethinking federal innovation policy. The President's "Strategy for American Innovation" released in the fall of 2009 recognizes that "a short-term view of the economy masks under-investments in essential drivers of sustainable, broadly shared growth".[i] Following the Recovery Act, the White House is supporting sustained federal investment in R&D, education, and infrastructure, while addressing export and visa controls and other regulatory barriers that limit the flow of ideas.

In the Congress, House and Senate committees continue work to reauthorize the America COMPETES Act, which will revitalize federal programs that stimulate innovation by emphasizing science, technology, engineering, and mathematics across the educational and economic spectrum.

Close relationships between business and academia let us connect curricula, research, and business plans to address important issues. Supported by enlightened government policies, this merging of invention into innovation is at the center of the real economy -- the making of things, the solving of problems, improvements in society.

A new sense of inventiveness has permeated all three sectors -- and that gives reason for hope for America's future. But if leaders don't continue to take innovation seriously, our nation still risks falling behind in the global economy. Absolutely nothing about the future is guaranteed - not jobs, not leadership, not our standard of living.

It's not about any one of us as companies or institutions, but for all of us to ask: What can we do to help secure America's future as the world's leader in science, technology and economic growth?

Paul Otellini is President and CEO of Intel Corporation. Jean-Lou Chameau is President of the California Institute of Technology.




Bond alchemy can turn fixed income lead into gold

A little investing alchemy can turn bond lead into gold

A bond with a negative yield seems an absurd investment, as one is guaranteed to lose money unless you can sell it on for an even lower yield. For a foreign investor, however, it is possible - metaphorically speaking - to turn fixed-income lead into gold, as the impact of currency hedging has the curious effect of boosting returns into positive territory.

This is not a theoretical exercise. Despite the recent sharp backup in government bond yields, 6.7 percent of the Bank of America Merrill Lynch World Sovereign Bond index, worth some $1.8 trillion, was still trading at negative yields as of June 16 (see chart 1).

Chart 1: Policy rates in negative territory (calculations: Investec and Bloomberg)

By buying foreign sovereign bonds, an investor implicitly takes a long position in the currency in which it is denominated. It is possible for investors to hedge this currency exposure through forward foreign exchange contracts, in which two parties agree to trade a set amount of one currency for another at a predetermined exchange rate in the future, effectively locking in the rate on the day the investment was made.

To avoid risk-free returns, a relationship known as covered interest rate parity must hold. If the foreign market has a higher interest rate than does the domestic market, the forward price of the foreign currency will be lower than its spot price, to reflect the higher interest rate earned, thus removing the possible riskless return. The effect of this is for yields on foreign bonds to converge closer to an investor's domestic market return. For example, a U.S. dollar-based investor, subject to the domestic policy rate, will receive the following annualized hedging return when selling spot and buying three months forward (see chart 2):

Chart 2: Spot and forward rates in U.S. dollars (calculations: Investec and Bloomberg)

By hedging the currency risk, this hedging yield becomes a significant component of total return that must be considered when assessing performance. International investors should take this yield into account when determining expected total return.

In the topsy-turvy world of negative interest rates, hedging costs are positive (see chart 3). In some cases, this generates a significant pickup in the return profile of this investment.

Chart 3: Spot and forward rates of those countries with a negative policy rate in U.S. dollars (calculations: Investec and Bloomberg)

Switzerland demonstrates how this return translates in practice. The yield on the Bank of America Merrill Lynch three- to five-year Swiss government bond index is -0.56 percent. A local buy-and-hold Swiss investor is guaranteed to lose money. From a foreign investor's perspective, however, returns are very different when combined with an annualized hedging yield on the currency (see chart 4).

Chart 4: Swiss 3-5-year index total return, February 1 to June 10 (calculations: Investec and Bloomberg)

Over the past three and a half months, the local currency return on the index has been zero. The U.S. dollar-hedged return was 0.55 percent, however. On an annualized basis, this is close to 1.5 percent, despite a zero return from the bond itself. Financial alchemy indeed.

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Alchemy in the Middle Ages - A Medieval Proto-Science

Alchemy in the Middle Ages

By Melissa Snell. Medieval History Expert

Updated May 28, 2015.

Alchemy in the Middle Ages was a mixture of science, philosophy and mysticism. Far from operating within the modern definition of a scientific discipline, medieval alchemists approached their craft with a holistic attitude; they believed that purity of mind, body and spirit was necessary to pursue the alchemical quest successfully.

At the heart of medieval alchemy was the idea that all matter was composed of four elements: earth, air, fire and water.

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With the right combination of elements, it was theorized, any substance on earth might be formed. This included precious metals as well as elixirs to cure disease and prolong life. Alchemists believed that the "transmutation" of one substance into another was possible; thus we have the cliché of medieval alchemists seeking to "turn lead into gold."

Medieval alchemy was just as much art as science, and practitioners preserved their secrets with an obfuscating system of symbols and mysterious names for the materials they studied.

Origins and History of Alechemy

Alchemy originated in ancient times, evolving independently in China, India, and Greece. In all these areas the practice ultimately degenerated into superstition, but it migrated to Egypt and survived as a scholarly discipline. In medieval Europe it was revived when 12th-century scholars translated Arabic works into Latin. The rediscovered writings of Aristotle also played a role. By the end of the 13th century it was discussed seriously by leading philosophers, scientists, and theologians.

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The Goals of Medieval Alchemists
  • To discover the relationship of man to the cosmos and take advantage of that relationship to the betterment of mankind.
  • To find the "philosopher's stone," an elusive substance that was believed to make possible the creation of an elixir of immortality and the transmutation of common substances into gold.
  • In the later Middle Ages, to use alchemy as a tool in the advancement of medicine (as Paracelsus did).
Achievements of Alchemists in the Middle Ages
  • Medieval alchemists produced hydrochloric acid, nitric acid, potash and sodium carbonate.
  • They were able to identify the elements arsenic, antimony, and bismuth.
  • Through their experiments, medieval alchemists invented and developed laboratory devices and procedures that are, in modified form, still used today.
  • The practice of alchemy laid the foundation for the development of chemistry as a scientific discipline.
Disreputable Associations of Alechemy
  • Due to its pre-Christian origins and the secrecy in which its practitioners carried out their studies, alchemy was viewed by the Catholic Church with suspicion and ultimately condemned.
  • Alchemy was never taught in Universities but was instead transmitted from teacher to apprentice or student clandestinely.
  • Alchemy attracted followers of the occult, with which it is still associated today.
  • There was no shortage of charlatans who used the trappings of alchemy to defraud.
Notable Medieval Alchemists
  • Thomas Aquinas was an eminent theologian who was permitted to study alchemy before it was condemned by the Church.
  • Roger Bacon was the first European to describe the process for making gunpowder.
  • Paracelsus used his understanding of chemical processes to advance the science of medicine.
Sources and Suggested Reading

The links below will take you to a site where you can compare prices at booksellers across the web. More in-depth info about the book may be found by clicking on to the book's page at one of the online merchants.

Alchemy: Science of the Cosmos, Science of the Soul
by Titus Burckhardt; translated by William Stoddart

Alchemy: The Secret Art
by Stanislas Klossowski De Rola

Alchemy: the medieval alchemists and their royal art
by Johannes Fabricius

The Philosophers Stone: A Quest for the Secrets of Alchemy
by Peter Marshall

The text of this document is copyright ©2005-2015 Melissa Snell. You may download or print this document for personal or school use, as long as the URL below is included. Permission is not granted to reproduce this document on another website. For publication permission, please visit About's Reprint Permissions page.

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Design Chemical SEO Alchemy – Turn Ideas into Gold - Design Chemical - jQuery, Wordpress, Tutorials - Plugins

Design Chemical Design Chemical SEO Alchemy – Turn Ideas into Gold

You can have the slickest business idea, coolest looking website with the hottest technology, fantastic rapport with customers with absolutely the right message for your target audience… but if no one finds your website then all that time and effort has been wasted.

People have websites for a variety of reasons: build brand identity and value, give prospective customers a place to find more information, use the site as a way to generate leads for new business, establish a relationship with prospective and existing customers, and to take and process orders. All these reasons benefit from good SEO.

Even if a website is just intended to give existing customers information, or to establish brand identity – it is important that your website perform well in search engine results. If someone is researching you, or has forgotten your exact name or website address they will likely make a search using your business name or the keywords related to your line of business. If you don’t rank very well, they will perceive you to be of lower quality or importance. If they find you at all.

Adword Pay-Per-Click (PPC) or Pay-Per-Impression campaigns are a great way to quickly generate leads but can also become costly. Even if you are relying on an Adword campaign, people are still likely to search for you when they come back. You can’t count on them always bookmarking your site or remembering your address.

Design Chemical SEO Alchemy – Science, not Magic

When unraveling the mysteries of SEO we suggest you keep in mind that there aren’t magic trick shortcuts that will instantly solve your marketing problems, or guaranteed top-ten results on Google for popular search terms.

Maximizing results for your SEO involve many complex issues that are evolving over time. What used to work five years ago to improve internet presence now backfire and can actually hinder your site’s performance.

We’re often asked to help site owners that have already paid other contractors good money for SEO only to find that the techniques being used are actually causing them to be ‘penalized’ by Google instead of rewarded with good results.

The biggest culprit is the old idea of generating lots of links to your site from other websites. Links are very important. But only the right kind of links from quality sites with content that is relevant to your website.

Google considers links between sites as a sign of community and sharing – and quality. They are now protecting the values of community very stringently. Google frowns on reciprocal link exchanges (I’ll link to you if you’ll link to me), and looks for signs that the links are merely intended to try to fool them. Google doesn’t like being made to look foolish. Meaning a travel site linking to a website hosting service is not a good thing. If you have an outgoing link going to a ‘bad’ site – a link farm scheme, or other shady automated system that they have identified, then your search engine results can be severely impacted. When Google sees these kind of links it discounts your content.

The most important thing to keep in mind regarding SEO/SEM is quality. Google and the other major search engines create a Quality Score for your site based on what they think it is about. The underlying key to this is that the search engine spiders that crawl your site looking for information need to be able to understand your site. Quality content is critical, but it needs to be readable by spiders, and shouldn’t be diluted by bad links.

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Fiction University: The Alchemy of Inspiration - How to Turn Ordinary Ideas Into Gold

By Tiffany Reisz, @tiffanyreisz

The one question professional writers get asked most often and the question we most dread answering is the proverbial “Where do you get your ideas?” Someone asked me this question recently and I, smartass that I am, answered “Alchemy.” But once I wrote the word “alchemy” I realized I’d accidentally told him the truth. One definition of alchemy is “any seemingly magical process of transmuting ordinary materials into something of true merit.” I can think of no better definition of inspiration than turning ordinary stuff into art.

Don’t believe in alchemy? I’ll use my most recent projectto show how “ordinary materials” can become gold (i.e. art, i.e. stuff you can sell for money). On Sunday October 6, 2013, I emailed a 30,000-word contemporary romance novella called Shenanigans to my agent. On September 6, 2013, Shenanigans didn’t exist. I hadn’t written one word of it. One month later it’s finished and turned it. How did that happen?

In a word—alchemy. Want to know the formula? Keep reading!

Ingredient #1 – Necessity

Necessity, they say, is the mother of invention. It’s also often the mother of inspiration. Earlier this year I sold a 30,000-word novella to Harlequin called Misbehavior. They liked it enough that they asked if I would write a second novella. Sounds good to me. Until now the only stories I’ve gotten published are kinky erotic women’s fiction. Contemporary romance stories will help me reach an entirely new audience. At this point I have no ideas at all for a new contemporary romance novella. I have nothing, zero, zip, zilch.

So I tell them, “Sure. I’ll get that to you ASAP.”

Ingredient #2 – Influences

All writers have their influences—myths, fables, Twilight (wtf?). I stick to the classics, and there’s nothing more classic than Shakespeare and the Bible. My Original Sinners books are 25% Shakespeare, 25% the Bible, and 50% my twisted little brain. My first novella for Harlequin was an erotic retelling of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. Since I retold a comedy, maybe I could do a tragedy? What tragedies do I know well? King Lear is fun, but it has no romance plot. Ah, but Romeo & Juliet has a romance plot. That could work. I’ll do a Romeo & Juliet retelling minus all the death. Now we have the tiniest kernel of an idea. A modern re-imagining of Romeo & Juliet. One sentence and one sentence only—but it’s a start.

Ingredient #3 – Knowledge (ie Write What You Know)

Everyone knows the story of Romeo & Juliet —the star-crossed lovers who become victims of a family feud. I’ll need two families that would have a legitimate reason for feuding. Many romances these days are set in Fortune 500-type companies. The heroes are billionaires. The heroines are secretaries, interns, college girls, etc. I suppose my Romeo could work for one company and my Juliet could work for a rival company. I mull this idea over, but it doesn’t speak to me. I hit a mental block. I don’t know enough about corporate finance to write a book with rival companies. Stuck for inspiration, I get on my bike and go for a ride in the Kentucky countryside. One mile from my house you can get on a 12-mile bike trail that takes you from downtown Lexington to The Kentucky Horse Park. It’s a beautiful area right outside a bustling big city—a mix of rural and urban right next to each other and the entire economy of Lexington revolves around horses.

While riding a line hits me right between the eyes. In Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet the curse the dying Mercutio cries out is “A plague on both your houses.” This curse will be fulfilled by end of the story.

I stop peddling and look around the Kentucky countryside. I see barns, fields, pastures, farms. Out loud I say to no one in particular…

“A plague on both your horses.”

Horses. Not houses. HORSES! That’s it!

And now I know how to write the story! My story will be set around a horse track between rival horseracing families. Forget a business rivalry. This is a sports rivalry between wealthy Thoroughbred horseracing families. I know about horseracing. I’ve even written about it for my erotica novel The Prince. This book will be about horseracing.

Now I have an idea. A good one. One that gets my blood pumping and my mind running. And I have a story to write!

Ingredient #4 – Personal Preferences, Personality, Pet Peeves

A writer’s personality and personal preferences inform nearly every word he or she sets on paper. I like playful stories so in my story, no one will die. It’ll be as funny as I can make it. My Mercutio character will steal every scene he’s in and that’s okay. I love scene-stealers. Shakespeare supposedly said he had to kill Mercutio lest Mercutio kill Romeo & Juliet. I decide to let my Mercutio live. I’m tough. I’ll keep my Mercutio, renamed Merrick, under control.

One of my biggest pet peeves in romance fiction are weak female characters. When I look around the real world, I see women in charge, going to grad school in greater numbers than men, and making more money than their boyfriends and husbands. My mother runs a real estate office and her assistant is male. In my Romeo & Juliet re-imagining my Romeo will become Remi, a 26-year-old woman who manages a horse farm. My Juliet will be Julien, a 21-year-old young man who is the youngest son of a rival horseracing family. Mercutio becomes Merrick—personal assistant to Remi. He’s ten years older than she is, but calls her Boss.

Remi is wise and worldly. Julien is younger and innocent. And Merrick makes all the dirty jokes just like Mercutio did. In Romeo & Juliet. Juliet’s nurse plays a large role. I turn the nurse character into a beautiful young doctor who lives with Julien since he’s survived a near fatal illness. I’d just read a first-person account of being a female Indian doctor in America. I make my doctor Indian-American. The lack of ethnic diversity in romance is another pet peeve.

The other main character in Romeo & Juliet is Paris, Juliet’s betrothed. The maximum word count on my story is 30,000. I can’t fit in any more characters in such a short story, so Paris the person becomes Paris the city in France where Julien is living while hiding from his parents.

I now have a plot that combines the family feud/forbidden love premise of Romeo & Juliet with my knowledge of Thoroughbred racing. I have characters that playfully subvert the original story of the star-crossed lovers. And I have a fun surprise ending that will give readers of contemporary romance the happy ending they desire. And I have four sizzling hot sex scenes, because why not? I write 3000 words a day for ten days. My four beta readers love the story (especially the Merrick parts), and once it’s edited within an inch of its life, I send it to my agent.

The Formula

Alchemy—any seemingly magical process of transmuting ordinary materials into something of true merit.

Write us another story, Tiffany + Shakespeare + Living in the Horse Capital of the World + Strong Female Characters + Lots of Dirty Jokes = SHENANIGANS!

Jump at any good opportunity to write for publication and mine your influences and favorite stories for inspiration. Incorporate your own passions, pet peeves, and personality into your story then write write write! And that, Writer Friends, is the alchemy of inspiration.
“A plague on both your horses!” Merrick shouted.

Remi turned around and glared at him.

“Sorry,” he said. “I always wanted to say that.” --from Shenanigans by Tiffany Reisz

Tiffany Reisz is the award-winning and internationally bestselling author of the Original Sinners series. When she’s not writing erotica, she’s tooling around Lexington, Kentucky on her three-speed bicycle trying to find inspiration. Find her on Twitter @tiffanyreisz and remember, please share the road. If you hit a bicyclist, you might kill a romance novel.



What is Alchemy?

What is Alchemy?

Alchemy was based on the belief that there are four basic elements in nature: air, fire, water and earth.

Alchemy is an ancient practice shrouded in mystery and secrecy. Its practitioners mainly sought to turn lead into gold, a quest that has captured the imaginations of people for thousands of years. However, the goals of alchemy went far beyond simply creating some golden nuggets.

Alchemy was rooted in a complex spiritual worldview in which everything around us contains a sort of universal spirit, and metals were believed not only to be alive but also to grow inside the Earth. When a base, or common, metal such as lead was found, it was thought to simply be a spiritually and physically immature form of higher metals such as gold. To the alchemists, metals were not the unique substances that populate the Periodic Table. but instead the same thing in different stages of development or refinement on their way to spiritual perfection.

As James Randi notes in his "Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural," "Beginning about the year 100 and reaching its flower in medieval times, alchemy was an art based partly upon experimentation and partly upon magic. Early investigators of natural processes centered their search on a mythical substance they knew as philosopher's stone, which was supposed to possess many valuable attributes such as the power to heal, to prolong life, and to change base metals into precious metal — such as gold." (This "philosopher's stone" was not a literal stone but instead a wax, liquid, or powder that held magical powers.)

History of alchemy

Historian Nevill Drury, in his book "Magic and Witchcraft," notes that, "The word alchemy is thought to derive from an Egyptian word, 'chem' or 'qem,' meaning black — a reference to the black alluvial soils bordering the Nile. We know that the Greek word 'chyma,' meaning to fuse or cast metals, established itself in Arabic as 'al kimia' — from which alchemy is derived." The Arabic role in the spread of alchemy is significant; many books on alchemy were translated into Arabic from the Greek before being introduced to European audiences.

Having the ability to turn lead into gold has obvious benefits these days, but ancient alchemists did not seek to change base metals into gold simply out of greed; as Drury notes, "The alchemists did not regard all metals as equally mature or 'perfect.' Gold symbolized the highest development in nature and came to personify human renewal and regeneration. A 'golden' human being was resplendent with spiritual beauty and had triumphed over the lurking power of evil. The basest metal, lead. represented the sinful and unrepentant individual who was readily overcome by the forces of darkness. If lead and gold both consisted of fire, air, water, and earth, then surely by changing the proportions of the constituent elements, lead could be transformed into gold. Gold was superior to lead because, by its very nature, it contained the perfect balance of all four elements."

Alchemy shows up in some odd places. For instance, Isaac Newton. best known for his study of gravity and his laws of motion. also wrote more than a million words of alchemical notes throughout his lifetime, historians have estimated.

In March 2016, the Chemical Heritage Foundation bought a 17th-century alchemy manuscript written by Newton. Buried in a private collection for decades, the manuscript detailed how to make "philosophic" mercury, thought to be a step toward making the philosopher's stone — a magical substance thought to have the ability to turn any metal into gold and give eternal life. Curator of rare books at the Chemical Heritage Foundation, James Voelkel said the text was likely copied from an American chemist named George Starkey. The Latin text — whose title translates to "Preparation of the [Sophick] Mercury for the [Philosophers'] Stone by the Antimonial Stellate Regulus of Mars and Luna from the Manuscripts of the American Philosopher" — will be available online for those interested to peruse.

Is alchemy real?

It is clear why alchemy was doomed to fail: it was based on a misunderstanding of basic chemistry and physics. Alchemists based their theories and experiments on the Aristotelian assumption that the world and everything in it are composed of four basic elements (air, earth, fire and water), along with three that were called "essential" substances: salt, mercury and sulfur. Today we know that the universe is made up of atoms and elements. Since lead and other metals are not composed of fire, air, earth, and water, it's not possible to adjust the percentages of those elements and turn them into gold.

Though alchemy never succeeded, that didn't stop people from claiming to have solved the ancient riddle. For centuries, rumors spread that certain people had discovered the philosopher's stone (since immortality was one of its properties, the fact that they're all now dead suggests otherwise). Some wealthy people hired alchemists to conduct research on their behalf, though they never saw returns on their investment. Bogus alchemists were so common in the Middle Ages that several famous writers described them, including poets Ben Jonson and Geoffrey Chaucer (in "The Canterbury Tales").

Though the philosopher's stone was a myth and alchemy failed, the alchemists weren't completely wrong: With modern physics equipment, such as particle accelerators. it is indeed possible to create gold from other elements, though the amounts are sub-microscopic and the process costs far more to create than the resulting gold is worth.

Though alchemy is long gone, the contrast between lead and gold remains; lead is a common, poisonous metal that can harm children and lead to brain damage; gold is highly valued, treasured, and often worn as jewelry. Though alchemy never achieved its goals of immortality or turning lead into gold, it did leave an important legacy: alchemists were early practitioners of what would become modern chemistry.

Benjamin Radford is deputy editor of Skeptical Inquirer science magazine and author of six books including Scientific Paranormal Investigation: How to Solve Unexplained Mysteries. His website is www.BenjaminRadford.com.

Benjamin Radford is the Bad Science columnist for Live Science. He covers pseudoscience, psychology, urban legends and the science behind "unexplained" or mysterious phenomenon. Ben has a master's degree in education and a bachelor's degree in psychology. He has written, edited or contributed to more than 20 books, including "Scientific Paranormal Investigation: How to Solve Unexplained Mysteries " and "Tracking the Chupacabra: The Vampire Beast in Fact, Fiction, and Folklore ." He sometimes appears on television but doesn't like to watch himself. He has also written and directed two short films and created a board game.

Benjamin Radford, Live Science Contributor on



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