how to: absurd scientific advice for common real-world problems

how to: absurd scientific advice for common real-world problemshow to: absurd scientific advice for common real-world problems
by Randall Munroe
Rating: ★★★★½
isbn: 9781473680333
Publication Date: September 10, 2019
Pages: 308
Genre: Non-fiction, Science
Publisher: John Murray

The world's most entertaining and useless self-help guide, from the brilliant mind behind the wildly popular webcomic xkcd and the million-selling What If? and Thing Explainer
For any task you might want to do, there's a right way, a wrong way, and a way so monumentally bad that no one would ever try it. How To is a guide to the third kind of approach. It's full of highly impractical advice for everything from landing a plane to digging a hole.


If you’ve ever read Randall Munroe’s xkcd website, or his first book, What If? you know what to expect from How To

If you haven’t, and you like physics, or imagining really weird scenarios and outrageous, possibly dangerous or lethal solutions to ordinary problems, or both, I definitely recommend checking this book out.  It’s exactly what it says on the tin: common problems that the author has unleashed his imagination (or the imagination of others) on to create the most absurd possible solutions.  We’re talking level 10 absurdity, but there’s also a lot of excellent science in these absurd solutions and solid explanations why these solutions wouldn’t work that range from “it would take more money than you’d save” (digging for treasure), to “this will likely kill you” (surviving re-entry of the ISS), to “the end of life – and the universe – as we know it” (triggering vacuum decay to power your house).

I kept thinking as I was reading this that it would make a really fun supplementary text in high school physics.  Want to increase uptake of STEM subjects?  Show kids how to figure out the end of the universe, or how much fuel it would take to send their house into space.

3 thoughts on “how to: absurd scientific advice for common real-world problems”

    1. Small doses is definitely the key. But I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone else pack so much personality into stick figures. 🙂

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