How To: Absurd Scientific Advice For Common Real-World Problems By Randall Munroe
How To is an instruction manual for taking everyday problems and using science and creative thinking to turn them into much bigger and more exciting problems. It teaches you how to cross a river by boiling it, outlines some of the many uses for lava around the home, and walks you through how to use experimental military research to ensure that your friends will never again ask you to help them move.
From changing a lightbulb to throwing a pool party, it describes unusual ways to accomplish common tasks, and analyzes what would happen to you if you tried them. In addition to being a profoundly unhelpful self-help book, it’s an exercise in applying math, science, and research to ordinary problems, and a tour through some of the strange and fun science underlying the world around us.
Randall Munroe, a former NASA roboticist, is the creator of the webcomic xkcd and the author of xkcd: volume 0. The International Astronomical Union recently named an asteroid after him; asteroid 4942 Munroe is big enough to cause a mass extinction if it ever hits a planet like Earth. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
#So… How To. I didn’t love it but I didn’t hate it. I painfully choose to give this 3.5 stars. I am honestly as shocked as the rest of you. There were quite a few things I loved and quite a few things I didn’t. I’d like to get the negative out of the way so here we go.
For starters, this book is not What If. I know you’re probably thinking Yeah, no sh*t I (foolishly) expected this to be like What If. The title should have given it away. How To tells the reader how to perform normal tasks in not at all normal ways. What If asks and answers absurd questions like Can you make a jetpack out of machine guns? This book, on it’s own, was decent but compared to What If, it all falls apart.
How To didn’t have nearly as much… absurdity as What If. It also excluded the community aspect. While What If answered questions submitted from the internet, How To did not, eliminating the personal and outrageous feel.
Also, this book wasn’t as fun because as I said, it was much too down to earth. We want weirdness! We want craziness! WE WANT RAVIOLI! See, that sentence is weird and fun. (Or maybe it isn’t and I’m just being weird.) How To was still decently silly but not as much as What If.
That said, this book still had the classic humor and dry wit of Randall Munroe. The doodles and drawings were creative, hilarious and fun. Also, I love Will Wheaton, the narrator of the audio. He’s one of my favorite narrators!
Overall, this book was objectively a good book but compared to the masterpiece that is What If it fell flat, even with the funnish parts.
#I don't know how Randall does it but every single book he writes is as good as every single XKCD he puts out.
Want to know how to have a pool party? It's not as easier as it sounds. First you have to build a pool, and to build a pool, you're gonna need a lot of math, and math is fun!
No, seriously. Math is fun.
This book revolves around the literal how-tos when it comes to doing things. Let's take our pool for example. Do you know the compression strength of the material you're about to build your swank new above-ground set up out of? Well, you should, and you're about to find out. Do you want to know how to build a moat made of lava around your house? Well, first you need to know what direction the wind is blowing so you don't accidentally set your home alight.
Absurdist, informative, and easy to read, Randall gives us another volume on his unending quest to teach us... everything, it seems. A few of the chapters do get a little bogged down with technicalities, but considering this is a book about technicalities, the fact that most of it is endlessly readable is already a true achievement. Plus, comics! Stick figures! Hilarious scenarios! That one guy with the hat! Munroe gives you everything you've come to love from XKCD and more. An excellent third installment in his non-web-based endeavors.
#Another smart and hilarious offering from Randall Munroe! The flip-side follow-up to What If? is every bit as brainy and had people wondering about me as I guffawed in the library's lunch room.
Sure, you could fill your swimming pool with a hose, but you might need to resort to bottled water; and if you need to empty them all quickly, you might consider using a nuclear bomb. This is how it would work . . .
There are also helpful (?) instructions for how to heat your home with lava, which sports equipment is most efficient at taking down an annoying drone, how to take a selfie with Venus in the background, how to charge your phone in the airport using hydro-electric power, how to blow out birthday candles with a jet engine, how to move using multiple helicopters attached to your house, how to get to an appointment on time using a mile high wall of gold, and ultimately, how to dispose of the book when you're finished reading.
This how-to manual may not be exactly useful in the average persons world except as intellectual entertainment, but entertainment doesn't get much better than this!
Thanks to NetGalley and Riverhead Books for making an advance copy available for an honest review.
How To, Randall Munroe