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The Elon Musk Blog Series: Wait But Why

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In 2015, Elon Musk reached out to blogger Tim Urban and asked him if he'd take a crack at explaining Elon's endeavors, and the industries surrounding them, to the world.

Tim accepted, and after extensive meetings with Elon and his staff, he wrote four blog posts that Vox’s David Roberts called “the meatiest, most fascinating, most satisfying posts I've read in ages.”

Here is the whole series, in one ebook.

550 pages, Kindle Edition

First published February 29, 2016

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Tim Urban

44 books692 followers

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5 stars
1,327 (78%)
4 stars
297 (17%)
3 stars
62 (3%)
2 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 144 reviews
Profile Image for Rafi.
18 reviews15 followers
May 28, 2017
Absolutely the best tech writing I've read recently. The blog series has four posts (each post might take several days to finish). My reactions after reading the posts one by one:
1. Elon Musk: The World’s Raddest Man - Hmm, I already know about Musk. But this guy writes really well, so I'm gonna continue.
2. How Tesla Will Change the World: Wow I thought Tesla is just a cool car company, but it's actually going to revolutionize the whole industry.
3. How (and Why) SpaceX Will Colonize Mars: WTF I just read?! I knew SpaceX is planning to put people on Mars. But putting a MILLION people and colonizing Mars? How can someone even come up with such an idea, let alone actively pursuing it?
4. About Elon’s secret sauce—the way he thinks: Slightly boring, but from now I'm going to change my life and start questioning everything.
Profile Image for Sadra Aliabadi.
45 reviews73 followers
May 13, 2017
بالاخره تموم شد.
این کتاب در واقع مجموعه ای از شش پست وبلاگ ویت بات وای هست که به قلم تیم اوربان نوشته شده.
نویسنده یکی از بلاگرهای معروف آمریکایی هست و داستان نوشتن این مجموعه پست ها هم از اونجا شروع میشه که یک روز منشی ایلان ماسک زنگ میزنه به ایشون و میگه که ایلان میخواد ببینتت. و در ادامه دیدارهایی صورت میگیره با خود ایلان ماسک و بازدید از شرکت های تسلا اسپیس ایکس و نئورالینک که تقریبا برای هرکدوم یک پست چند ده هزار کلمه ای نوشته میشه. (در نهایت لینک تمام پست ها رو قرار میدم)

دلیلی که به کتاب پنج ستاره دادم:
من ایلان ماسک رو خیلی دوست. اما تا به حال هرچیزی که در موردش دیدم از جنس ابرقهرمان سازی های رسانه های آمریکایی بوده. بلاگ های فناوری باهاش مثل یک سلبریتی برخورد میکنند به جای پرداخت به این که ایلان ماسک به چی فکر میکنه و از اون مهم تر چرا و چطوری فکر میکنه؟ مثلا کتاب زندگی نامه ماسک در قیاس با این کتاب دو ستاره هم نداره به این دلیل که صرفا تاریخ نگاریه و اون هم به خوبی انجام نشده و مخاطب با شخصیت ماسک ارتباط برقرار نمیکنه.
به نظرم در این مجموعه ماسک میاد روی زمین مغزش باز میشه و میفهمیم که چطور آقای ماسک، ایلان ماسک شده.
تیم اوربان در موشکافی فوق العاده ست، قلم جذابی داره با این که از چیزهای تخصصی حرف میزنه خسته کننده نمیشه مقالات و هم چنین ارزش افزوده برای متن ایجاد میکنه و یک راوی صرف نیست.
خوندن کتاب رو به همه توصیه میکنم. چه علاقه مندان به تکنولوژی و چه نا علاقه مندان. چرا که درباره ی فردای همه ی ماست.

لینک های مقاله های تیم اوربان درباره ی ایلان ماسک:
درباره ی نئورالینک
درباره تسلا:
درباره ی اسپیس ایکس:
ماست رید ترین پست مجموعه درباره ی این که ایلان ماسک چطور ممکن است؟
درباره این که اسپیس ایکس چطور مریخ رو سرنشین دار خواهد کرد.
Profile Image for Simon Eskildsen.
215 reviews946 followers
April 5, 2016
Excellent series on what Musk is doing, and why. The Musk biography goes much more into the personal life of Musk, whereas this approaches it from a technical angle. This is what Musk would want you to read. If you only read one between the biography and the blog series, read the blog series.
Profile Image for Vlad Dobrovan.
14 reviews5 followers
February 21, 2017
This is so freaking good. The E-Book (basically a big ass blog series) is focused on 3 things: Elon Musk, Tesla, SpaceX. Tim has a great style of writing. It is also coupled with some nice humor here and there and great, simple associations that are great when you are trying to explain stuff about combustion engines or the relative distance to Mars. He also covers a lot more than only those 3 topics in order to create meaningful context. This is a terrific book for pretty much anyone to read. Especially if you are curious about tech stuff. Or changing the world.
Profile Image for Iva.
628 reviews100 followers
March 11, 2017
Not just about Musk. The blog series contains a lot of information about the science of cars and space. I'm pretty sure that all of it is understandable to everyone and very interesting. Highly recommend it
Profile Image for Guilherme Zeitounlian.
234 reviews5 followers
January 16, 2020
This book is so great.

I read Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future , and that biography was a nice starting point to get to know more about Musk and his personal history.

In this book (which is a series of blog posts condensed) the focus is mainly on Tesla and SpaceX.

Tim Urban is very talented in making complex topics (such as energetic matrix and aeronautics) become fun and engaging.

I feel that is the way science and engineering are supposed to be: brimming with desire and possibility.

Up until that part, the book was already worthy of its 5 stars.

But the last part (about Musk's secret sauce) could surpass all expectations.

Because it is not about Musk: it is about all of us, our capabilities do achieve great things and live a life true to ourselves. Great book, 5/5.

P.S.: Still want that Tesla though.
Profile Image for আবু নাসিম.
24 reviews4 followers
September 16, 2017
ইলন মাস্ক নামের এক অদ্ভুতুড়ে বিলিয়নেয়ার পৃথিবীর ভবিষ্যৎ ভাল করতে চান, পৃথিবীকে বাঁচাতে চান। তার বিভিন্ন কোম্পানি- টেসলা, স্পেসএক্স, সোলারসিটি এগুলো কি করছে, কেন করছে, কিভাবে করছে তা টিম আরবান তার লেখার মাধ্যমে তুলে ধরেছেন। একইসাথে পদার্থবিজ্ঞানে সাধারণ একটা বিএস.সি ডিগ্রিধারী ইলন মাস্ক কিভাবে আজ পৃথিবীর সবচেয়ে অসাধারণ (লেখকের ভাষায় raddest) হয়ে উঠলেন ও আমরা সাধারণ মানুষরা কেন তা পারিনি করতে তা লিখেছেন। এমনকি কি করলে আমরা তেমন হতে পারি, তাও বলেছেন টিম আরবান।

ইলন মাস্ক বইটি লেখার জন্য টিম আরবানের কাছে সাক্ষাৎকার দিয়েছেন ও তাকে তার কোম্পানি ঘুরে দেখার সুযোগ দিয়েছেন। বইটি লিখতে টিম আরবান কোন টাকা পাননি। ইলন মাস্ককে কাছে থেকে দেখার ��ুযোগই তার উৎসাহের উৎস।
Profile Image for ⵎⵓⵏⵉⵔ.
172 reviews3 followers
March 12, 2016
Awesome series of essays written by Tim Urban, originally on his blog Wait But Why (very highly recommended), about Elon Musk's work, why it's incredible, and why its later developments and his visions are important for the survival of our species as a whole.
Profile Image for Caio Ferreira.
7 reviews8 followers
April 23, 2020
This book is amazing and it blew my mind! It was super cool get to know more about Elon way of think and his way of look to the world. The way Tim Urban writes is amazing and easy to read.
Profile Image for Dahlia.
134 reviews45 followers
April 6, 2019
"The Elon Musk Blog Series" is not just about Elon so don't be fooled by the title. Ok? The main reason the author has written these series is "to understand why Musk is doing what he's doing" and "to understand why Musk is able to do what he's doing." If you want to know about Musk, read his biography. If you want to know about science, read this.

The blog mainly focuses on Tesla and SpaceX, but it also covers other interesting topics. In the second part "How Tesla will change the World" you can learn a lot about energy, renewable energy, the history of cars, and the story of Tesla. In the part "How (and Why) SpaceX Will Colonize Mars" the author writes about astronauts, rockets, space robots, man-made satellites, the International Space Station, and the SpaceX plans. The third part, "The Cook and the Chef: Musk’s Secret Sauce," is completely unnecessary, in my opinion.

The writing style is witty and easy to understand. Here's one part I particularly liked: "Mars has an average temperature of -55ºC (-67ºF), which isn’t fun, but Venus is literally actual hell,with an average temperature of 462ºC (864ºF). No one is more of a dick than Venus. Why? CO2. Mars has a much thinner atmosphere than Earth so the sun’s energy easily escapes, while Venus’s atmosphere is much thicker, with 300 times the CO2 as Earth, so it traps in a ton of heat. Mercury is closer to the sun than Venus, but with no atmosphere, it’s cooler than Venus. During the day, Mercury gets almost as hot as Venus, but at night it gets freezing, while Venus is just as hot at night as it is during the day, because the heat lives permanently in its thick atmosphere."

Overall, great blog series. There's also an audio version and an ebook. I prefer the blog posts because there are a lot of gifs and videos that you should definitely check out to understand the text better.
Profile Image for Mike McDonald.
48 reviews1 follower
February 5, 2017
The first three of the blog sections I found absolutely fascinating. The author does a great job of making physics understandable and even enjoyable to think about. The things Elon Musk is doing are pretty amazing, and this book is well worth the read. I did find the fourth post about Musk's "special sauce" rather disappointing, as the author repeatedly contradicted himself and argued for a typical humanistic, individualist mindset as the secret to success. He frequently refers to reasoning for yourself from "first principles" without defining what those principles are or how to find them.
Overall, the book is very interesting and would earn five stars if not for the final section.
Profile Image for Vera.
130 reviews6 followers
September 16, 2017
Tim Urban has amazing writing style, he makes very complex things sound very easy and he dissects why what Elon Musk does is important and ground-breaking. You can see he is a big fan of his work but so am I.
I learned a lot about sustainable energy, car industry, solar system and space industry. I loved last chapter of the book where Tim talks about what makes Elon special, critical reasoning and being a chef.
I couldn't help thinking that we live in amazing era of mind-blowing discoveries and I wouldn't trade it for any other (except for maybe living 30-50 years into the future to see how this all unfolds).
Profile Image for Ngoc.
17 reviews1 follower
August 31, 2017
Elon Musk: he was more than a genius and more than a billionaire. His stories have brought me back to my childhood's dreams which were buried with "educated" realities. He definitely is my inspiration.
For the book: it has explained not just what but how and why Elon is doing what he's doing. It doesn't just showcase Elon's genius visions but also inspires me to think different and reassess my goals.
Yet. I still find some parts of the book is quite cliche and redundant, prolixity which kind of bored me off.
Overall, though it is worthy book. At least, for me, right now.
Profile Image for Andras Fuchs.
26 reviews4 followers
June 22, 2016
Fantastic subject, fantastically written!

This book contains so much amazing information that it blows my mind. The most wonderful surprise was the last chapter for me which is basically a recipe how to mimic the ways of thinking of the exceptional men like Elon Musk, Steve Job or Richard Feynman.

Highly recommend reading for everyone, who wants to follow his/her highest excitement to make our world a better place (just like Elon).
2 reviews
April 9, 2018
It's awesome to have read something that is so balanced between fun and science-y. I started this book after finished the other Elon Musk book by Ashlee Vance. Both compliment each other quite amazingly.
Profile Image for Martin.
67 reviews
October 9, 2016
It's hard for me to comprehend how much this blog series affected me. Great stuff. Looking forward to see the future.
Profile Image for Jon Zuckerman.
236 reviews2 followers
April 3, 2017
Have you read this yet? If you haven't then shame on you. It's a life changer and it's free on waitbutwhy.com, I promise there's nothing in your life more important than this. Cmon now.
Profile Image for Ramin Shams.
2 reviews
December 14, 2020
Tim Urban is one of the best (if not simply the best), most insightful bloggers ever. He's got a very distinctive writing style and has an absolute gift in taking rather complicated subjects, dissecting different layers around them and explaining them one by one in an easy-to-read manner, helping the reader gain a very structured, deep knowledge about the subject. Add Tim's excellent sense of humor to this already fabulous mix and you have something you can hardly put aside.

The Elon Musk Blog Series, as the name suggests, is a collection from a series of several very long blog posts published on Tim's website (Wait But Why) about what Elon Musk does. The important thing to note here is that these, for the most part, are not about Elon Musk himself, or his life or how he got where he is, in a biographical way. The book rather focuses on what this fabulous guy is doing on different fronts and more importantly, the reasons why he's chosen to do those things.

Tim starts with a very brief introduction of Elon Musk and then quickly focuses on different companies he manages (at the time of writing), focusing specifically on Tesla and SpaceX.

Starting with Tesla, we learn why the automotive industry did not change much for almost 100 years, how Tesla hugely changed the game in that market and why Tesla's mission is so important for our future, along with a lot of background information regarding global warming and its huge, almost unbelievable impacts, most of us are unfortunately not paying attention to as much as we should.

Tim then focuses on SpaceX, its business model which is quite fascinating, how it almost failed before getting the traction it's got today and finally the idea behind that seemingly "crazy" plan of Musk's about putting one million people on Mars.

The final chapter of the book is another insightful, fascinating piece, focusing on how people like Steve Jobs and Elon Musk view the world and what's so different about them as opposed to the way most of us think and behave, which has much less to do with how talented they are and the "hardware" they have been provided with, as one might initially think, and much more to do with their worldview and those constant "updates" to their "software".

This is an excellent read, HIGHLY recommended, just like most of the other Tim Urban pieces!
46 reviews1 follower
May 16, 2020
Well, if you ever wonder how to improve the world and how Elon Musk does this already you can read this. Tim has a very objective view here, going to the roots of space and cars, explaining you pretty much everything you need to know to understand more about Elon and his companies. Also it explains you where the world's science level is at the moment, and imo most of the companies that should improve science are stuck in their own world, not daring to make a huge change.
I honestly think it had a pretty big impact on me, like motivation-wise, knowing someone is tryharding to improve the world, I can't just sit and do nothing.
Profile Image for Eglė.
42 reviews7 followers
August 3, 2019
This blog series tried to explain how and why Elon does what he does. Very interesting!
Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Srikkanth G.
178 reviews7 followers
July 31, 2017
Man, this book is a mix of philosophy, Musk, Science, human behaviour and other stuff.

I read somewhere that this book simplifies what Elon Musk is doing. Since I wanted to know, in simple terms, what the man is doing, I tried to give this book a shot.

At about a quarter of the book, I realized that it's not as simple as I thought. The book is simple for science lovers and people who understand most concepts but doesn't want jargons to bore them. Think of simplifying a science text for a group of students with only issue that commerce students will still struggle with the simplified science version.

I had left science ever since I graduated and I didn't want to be reminded of my horrible days of school and grad.

However, the pain was worth it. How did I manage? I skimmed the pure science stuff and read mild science stuff (referring Google) and stuff I could understand. By skimming, I meant that I ignored that had formulae and equations and labored through the more understandable parts.

It's amazing to see the world of Musk from an author who writes what he sees. To his credit, he claims that book or series of blogs as pro-Musk. To his defense, after reading the book, I get why he is pro-Musk. Musk doesn't makes sense to those who is undermining him because of the business impact he is causing. Many big business are scared to shit because of the quality he is delivering and that too at less that 50% of what big business charge. He will make sense to those who can see through the rubbish and read the man for what he is doing.

At the end of reading this book I'm convinced that we will have humans in Mars. It is possible. We are at the same era of where Wright brothers were, who by defying society and customs, announced to the world that they were going to build a machine that could fly. When they did, the world stood up and clapped. The only issue was that till the time their machine didn't fly, everyone mocked them.

Musk is mocked because of his audacious attempt. An attempt that most of us have not even thought of. An attempt that only a select few fiction writers have dared to write off. One of my favourite quote from this books reads something like this: "Space X does stuff that private companies aren't even supposed to know such stuff exists".

To understand why he is doing what he is doing, one has to get to know the man. The author starts there. He studies the man. Is is crazy or a visionary? Is he stupid to think of colonizing mars or does he make sense?

He then starts to discuss various projects Musk has at hand. Electric car that's viable, drivable and fast. Space X that's every crazier than the car project. Finally, Mars mission.

The author does a good job in explaining the technical and scientific aspects of project Musk undertakes. While some of them is purely technical, tons of material helps the reader to get a sense of what Musk is doing.

The book ends by helping the reader understand the psychological aspect from which Musk is operating. He dissects as to how humans are conditioned to think in a specific way and what made Musk to deviate from normal thinking.

Musk, like Jobs is eccentric and control freak. May be that's what made one person super famous and the other into legend status.
10 reviews1 follower
October 13, 2016
Wow. Simply wow. Tim Urban is the man. Possibly the most inspiring, fascinating, compelling, interesting and thought-provoking blog series I've ever read. Tim masterfully weaves together a tremendous story that is simply captivating while also incredibly educational. From the background on Musk and his upbringing to the bigger picture behind the companies he's created to how Tesla will change the world to why SpaceX is attempting to colonize Mars to how in the heck Musk is able to accomplish what he does, cover to cover there isn't a dry spot in the entire thing.

Before reading this, I was in the large majority that would have said going to Mars was feasible, but colonizing it? That's crazy, impossible, and impractical (and a waste of money). After reading this, my view had shifted dramatically. We will colonize Mars - and most likely in our lifetime, with the first people slated to go only 9 years from now. HOW we will do it is fascinating. WHY we will do it will open your mind to a most vast way of thinking about life and the longevity of the human race. I'll give you a hint - it's to backup the 'hard drive'.

You will come away from this inspired. You will have reshaped views. You will become a huge Elon Musk fan (if you're not already). You will find yourself setting Google Alerts for SpaceX and Tesla updates.

Could not recommend this blog series more. It's free online at www.waitbutwhy.com if you don't want to pay for it. The ONLY negative thing I'll say is in regards to the audiobook version Tim made for Part 3 about SpaceX. He goes on and on talking about how he decided to try out an audiobook for the first time, then frequently pauses in the middle of the reading going off on tangents about words he doesn't like to pronounce. Just get to it Tim - we don't need a 15-minute intro on why you're recording the post. We get it. Other than that - GREAT JOB.
Profile Image for Himanshu Modi.
186 reviews22 followers
December 8, 2017
The definitive Elon Musk book.

I think Tim would hate the review title. Not because he would deny being a musk fanboy - I don’t think he would, and there’s no one more deserving of having fanboys. But more because the scope of the book is much larger than Elon Musk. And Tim earnestly wants you to glean the important lessons to make your own life better, the planet a better place to love in, and hope for our species to become a permanent fixture in the grand timeline of the universe. It is a massive goal. But as far as I am concerned he succeeds. The story of Tesla and space x are important to understand. And if you aren’t familiar with Tim urban’s blog, he starts from first principles so you get the whole story. And because he is funny, even if you know some of those first principles, like say, the earth is not the center of the universe, it’s fun to read about it again. You will find the perfect amount of balance of detail and abstraction here and will completely get what electric cars and space travel are all about. But because these industries are going through an upheaval solely because of Elon Musk, I call this a definitive musk book. A lot of non-fiction books tend to be relevant only for short time spans. Especially if they are basically blogs. But I believe this book will be relevant for a while. And when, in the distant future, a version Tim urban on mars starts plodding through history of how the hell did we get on Mars, he will discover this book and it will form his tree trunk to add on to.
Profile Image for Nathan Hatch.
118 reviews4 followers
September 30, 2016
I started reading this book on the Wait But Why website, thinking it was just a blog post. To be fair, Tim warns you up front that they made an ebook for offline reading. I should have listened. Had I listened, I might have had more realistic expectations about what I was getting into, might have read at a more moderate pace. But no. This blog series completely sucked me in, took over my life, and finally spat me back out again when I was finished with it two days later.

When you finish this book, go read his blog post about SpaceX's new Big Fucking Rocket.

What I liked

Thoroughness. The blog posts are long because Tim explains everything from the ground up. The Tesla part, for example, starts by defining the joule. He organizes information in an extraordinarily lucid way.

Content. Tesla and SpaceX are deeply fascinating because they are on the bleeding edge of technological achievement, and the challenges they solve are fundamental to the preservation of the human race. And they're succeeding. Learning about their goals is like getting a secret preview of the future, although of course it is actually just an unusually clear glimpse of the present.

Humor. Somehow, Tim manages to do all this while cracking jokes left, right, and center.

Enthusiasm. Tim's excitement for the future of these companies is infectious. I kind of want to drop everything and go work for Elon Musk.

What I didn't like

A few of the blue footnotes seemed a bit extraneous.
Profile Image for Virak.
2 reviews3 followers
October 24, 2016
Amazing read for fans of Elon and simple explanations of complex things

Tim's discussion of the neat technologies is a great hook for what later becomes a deep dive into the histories (and reasons) for the industries that grew up around those technologies. He discusses a lot of the "why" regarding the decisions that Elon has made, Tim himself has made, and surprisingly the decisions that people in general make.

Would recommend the read if both you fancy a glimpse into a possible future (with electric cars and trips to Mars) and this following passage resonates with you:
"[...] our obsession with fears of all shapes and sizes may have served us well in Ethiopia 50,000 years ago—but it mostly ruins our lives today. Because not only does it amp up our fear in general to “shit we botched the hunt now the babies are all going to starve to death this winter” levels even though we live in an “oh no I got laid off now I have to sleep at my parents’ house for two months with a feather pillow in ideal 68º temperature” world—but it also programs us to be terrified of all the wrong things. We’re more afraid of public speaking than texting on the highway, more afraid of approaching an attractive stranger in a bar than marrying the wrong person, more afraid of not being able to afford the same lifestyle as our friends than spending 50 years in a meaningless career—all because embarrassment, rejection, and not fitting in really sucked for hunters and gatherers."
Profile Image for Galadriel.
89 reviews16 followers
June 9, 2017
Holy shit, that was amazing!
This is about the most inspirational book I've read in the past many years. Tim Urban has some brilliant pieces on the Wait But Why blog, but this... this was a whole new level of awesomeness.

Communicating important ideas clearly to the general public has become increasingly important and quite difficult to pull off without either A) oversimplifying the idea or B) drowning the listener in a sea of technical terms - but Tim has somehow managed without too much of either.

There are some things I think we should be aware of, though - for example, it's fine to reach a conclusion through your own reasoning, but please make sure you are making the correct observations and that you dig answers deep enough. Knowing that someone doesn't vaccinate their children and also knowing that the same children haven't gotten sick (yet) is not an argument that vaccines are unnecessary; seeing marks in the sky after a plane does not mean that the government is paying someone to sprinkle us with "chemicals", and so on. (Not that Tim is making the case for these examples, of course -- I'm just worried that someone could misunderstand and misuse the logic in the book to make confident decisions based on not enough why/because digging. :))
104 reviews
January 3, 2018
Context: Have recently been attempting to understand the future implication of bitcoin and associated blockchain technologies (which has seemingly captured every other headline over the last couple months), so decided to revisit these blog posts (on Mr. Musk's companies and goals, which is arguably the "coolest" thing in auto, energy and aerospace) to round out my knowledge of where we are now, in relation to where we're likely heading in the future.

Liked: Incredibly cool, mind-blowing content. But that's nothing new. Equally impressive was Mr Urban's writing style; I had long knew of Mr. Urban's blog posts, but this was my first attempt at reading his blog posts in the same manner I would have read a book. Writing a long extended post with pictures, animations, videos and PDF's hyperlinked was so totally immersive.

Disliked: Not much.

Space X and Tesla have come quite a way since this was first written in 2015. Falcon Heavy's ready for launch now, Semi Truck and Roadster II have been revealed, Solar City has been acquired. Falcon 9 had a crash, Tesla had an autopilot fatality. Exciting times we live in.

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