How To: Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-World Problems

How To: Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-World Problems

by Randall Munroe
How To: Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-World Problems

How To: Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-World Problems

by Randall Munroe



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“How To will make you laugh as you learn…With How To, you can't help but appreciate the glorious complexity of our universe and the amazing breadth of humanity's effort to comprehend it. If you want some lightweight edification, you won't go wrong with How To.”CNET

“[How To] has science and jokes in it, so 10/10 can recommend.” —Simone Giertz

The world's most entertaining and useless self-help guide from the brilliant mind behind the wildly popular webcomic xkcd, the bestsellers What If? and Thing Explainer, and What If? 2, coming September 13, 2022

For any task you might want to do, there's a right way, a wrong way, and a way so monumentally complex, excessive, and inadvisable 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.

Bestselling author and cartoonist Randall Munroe explains how to predict the weather by analyzing the pixels of your Facebook photos. He teaches you how to tell if you're a baby boomer or a 90's kid by measuring the radioactivity of your teeth. He offers tips for taking a selfie with a telescope, crossing a river by boiling it, and powering your house by destroying the fabric of space-time. And if you want to get rid of the book once you're done with it, he walks you through your options for proper disposal, including dissolving it in the ocean, converting it to a vapor, using tectonic plates to subduct it into the Earth's mantle, or launching it into the Sun.

By exploring the most complicated ways to do simple tasks, Munroe doesn't just make things difficult for himself and his readers. As he did so brilliantly in What If?, Munroe invites us to explore the most absurd reaches of the possible. Full of clever infographics and fun illustrations, How To is a delightfully mind-bending way to better understand the science and technology underlying the things we do every day.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780525537106
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/03/2019
Sold by: Penguin Group
Format: eBook
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 76,095
File size: 107 MB
Note: This product may take a few minutes to download.

About the Author

Randall Munroe is the author of the New York Times bestsellers What If? 2, How To, What If?, and Thing Explainer; the science question-and-answer blog What If?; and the popular web comic xkcd. A former NASA roboticist, he left the agency in 2006 to draw comics on the internet full time. He lives in Massachusetts.

Read an Excerpt

How to Catch a Drone
A wedding-photography drone is buzzing around above you. You don’t know what it’s doing there and you want it to stop.

Let’s suppose you have a garage full of sports equipment— baseballs, tennis rackets, lawn darts, you name it. Which sport’s projectiles would work best for hitting a drone? And who would make the best anti-drone guard? A baseball pitcher? A basketball player? A tennis player? A golfer? Someone else?

There are a few factors to consider — accuracy, weight, range, and projectile size.

One sport I couldn’t find good data on was tennis. I found some studies of tennis pro accuracy, but they involved hitting targets marked on the court, rather than in the air.

So I reached out to Serena Williams.

To my pleasant surprise, she was happy to help out. Her husband, Alexis, offered a sacrificial drone, a DJI Mavic Pro 2 with a broken camera. They headed out to her practice court to see how effective the world’s best tennis player would be at fending off a robot invasion.

The few studies I could find suggested tennis players would score relatively low com- pared to athletes who threw projectiles— more like kickers than pitchers. My tentative guess was that a champion player would have an accuracy ratio around 50 when serving, and take 5–7 tries to hit a drone from 40 feet. (Would a tennis ball even knock down a drone? Maybe it would just ricochet off and cause the drone to wobble! I had so many questions.)

Alexis flew the drone over the net and hovered there, while Serena served from the baseline.
Her first serve went low. The second zipped past the drone to one side.

The third serve scored a direct hit on one of the propellers. The drone spun, momentarily seemed like it might stay in the air, then flipped over and smashed into the court. Serena started laughing as Alexis walked over to investigate the crash site, where the drone lay on the court near several propeller fragments.

I had expected a tennis pro would be able to hit the drone in five to seven tries; she got it in three.

Table of Contents

Introduction viii

1 How to Jump Really High 1

2 How to Throw a Pool Party 10

3 How to Dig a Hole 27

4 How to Play the Piano 34

How to Listen to Music 44

5 How to Make an Emergency Landing 45

6 How to Cross a River 61

7 How to Move 77

8 How to Keep Your House from Moving 94

How to Chase a Tornado 100

9 How to Build a Lava Moat 101

10 How to Throw Things 109

11 How to Play Football 117

12 How to Predict the Weather 127

How to Go Places 136

13 How to Play Tag 137

14 How to Ski 145

15 How to Mail a Package 157

16 How to Power Your House (on Earth) 168

17 How to Power Your House (on Mars) 181

18 How to Make Friends 189

How to Blow out Birthday Candies 194

How to Walk a Dog 194

19 How to Send a File 195

20 How to Charge Your Phone 201

21 How to Take a Selfie 210

22 How to Catch a Drone 223

23 How to Tell If You're a Nineties Kid 230

24 How to Win an Election 240

25 How to Decorate a Tree 248

How to Build a Highway 259

26 How to Get Somewhere Fast 260

27 How to Be On Time 272

28 How to Dispose of This Book 281

Acknowledgements 291

References 292

Index 300

How to Change a Light Bulb 308

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