“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.
|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
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About the Author
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
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
How to Change a Light Bulb 308