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

4.24  ·  Rating details ·  2,545 ratings  ·  378 reviews
The world's most entertaining and useless self-help guide, from the brilliant mind behind the wildly popular webcomic xkcd and the #1 New York Times bestsellers 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 high
Kindle Edition, 320 pages
Published September 3rd 2019 by Riverhead Books
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Miranda Reads
Feb 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook

3.75 stars
If you’re worried that the house will blow away, or that some prankster will attach jet engines and send it blasting off into the distance...
Then this is the book for you!

If you have ever been curious about how to dig a hole, how to cross a river or how to jump really high - then look no further!
If you want to beat a high jumper, you have two options:
1. Dedicate your life to athletic training, from an early age, until you become the world's be

Many thanks to Brooke at Penguin Random House for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review

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 ha

Did you ever wonder how to build a lava moat around your house or how to send a package from space?  Well, you're in luck!  Randall Munroe's How To: Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-World Problems explains how to do these and several other weird things you might have wondered about.  I'm not saying you're weird if you've pondered these things; I'm saying they're weird questions.  Don't blame me:  The author himself claims they're absurd.  Other absurd questions asked (and answered) in this book include:

•How to ke
Sep 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: humor, science
So much about author Randall Munroe can be explained by a quote from this book:
I really love that we can ask physics ridiculous questions like, “What kind of gas mileage would my house get on the highway?” and physics has to answer us.
Most of the rest can be illuminated by his approach to most topics in this book. Tongue firmly planted in cheek and nerd flag raised proudly high. Frankly, I have no idea why it's taken this long for the creator of the brilliant xkcd comic to tell us the winning strategy in football (as Rbook:I
Feb 07, 2019 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition

Elvina Zafril
Sep 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed myself reading this book. This is the first book I read written by this author.

Since this is a non fiction book, there’s no plot or main characters to talk about.

How To is informative and easy to read. A lot of How tos in doing things. Even how to send a package. There are some useful informations that I think I can use. For example how to take a selfie with Venus in the background, how to blow out birthday candles with a jet engine and most interesting part is how to disp
Aug 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Quirky, funny, and at times ridiculous. I love Munroe’s sense of humor and his approach to all matters but this was just okay for me.
Alex Richey
Audiofile Review!

I laughed out loud a LOT while listening to this one. It takes extremely ordinary scenarios and applies ridiculous amounts of science and physics (and humor!) to answer questions. I learned a lot of really fascinating and digestible tidbits of info, and I am much more equipped to take over the world and destroy everything than I was before finishing. Highly recommend!
Aug 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

An accurate description of everything I’ve worked on in my career

Not as funny as What If, but still pretty funny. I think having people write in ridiculous hypothetical scenarios just produced better content than taking ordinary things and coming up with absurd ways to do them. It’s just not practical!

That being said, there are some real gems in here (see how to land a Roc, yes the mythical bird), and also the constant references to studies you have to believe no one would have been dumb enough to conduct, but of courseIf,
Oct 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019-20-season
Just as informative, entertaining , and thought provoking as in his previous columns and online work - Munroe is the brightest star to be added to the intelligent comic firmament since Scott Adams.
Tim Jarrett
Sep 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
You know you’ve found a good book when literally every member of your family tries to grab it or read parts of it at the same time that you are.
Maciej Kuczyński
Don't really expect any realistic answers from this book. 😅 Nonetheless, it's really entertaining to read about absurd solutions to various problems. Like how to move your house using airplane engines—or how to send someone the entire Internet using butterflies.

As with many pop-science books, I wish the author used more civilised units of measure instead of feet, gallons or—I don't know—empty milk bottles.

Note: I listened to the audiobook, which misses on the excellent dr
Sep 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very funny and actually educational! Despite the silly premisses, each chapter does give fundamental answers how everyday life works.
Nov 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: blue
The principal problem with Randall Munroe books, is that they go by way too fast. I like to savor a good book, reading a little bit at a time, then thinking that part over for a day before going on to the next. With "how to", like its predecessor "what if", I gobbled it up in a day or two. Someone with money please fund a grant to get Mary Roach and Randall Munroe to write a series of science textbooks for junior high and high schoolers.

There are chapters on how to take out a drone w
Tejas Nair
I didn't know that world's faster sprinter Usain Bolt has never run a mile. I didn't know that countries don't have to stick to their time zones; they can change it arbitrarily if they want and no one can tell them anything. I didn't know the scar that I have on my left upper arm is because of a smallpox vaccine that uses a two-needled injection. And these are just a couple of the dozens of new things I learned from How To, a book that is essential reading for everyone who likes when science (physic ...more
Sep 08, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
How To details ridiculous ways to do regular or routine things. That ridiculousness is the appeal of Munroe's works: let's move a house with jet engines; let's mail things from space; let's take a selfie in front of Venus; etc.

All that said, while I enjoyed this it didn't work for me quite as well as What If?, which took ridiculous premises very seriously. How To suffered from some of the same issues as What If?: some scenarios get spun into strange tangents without cause or explanation, and there
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
You know how boring scientific manuals are? Not this book. Randall Munroe takes on problems---how to walk a dog, how to win an election, how to dig a hole, and oodles more---and offers solutions that are convoluted, complex, unnecessary, odd, and exceedingly funny.

I loved What If and now I'm a fan of How To. I guess I need to find a copy of Thing Explainer. I'll have to write a letter to the author, earn money to pay for the book, drive to the author's home....
Jacques Bezuidenhout
Very sadly, this book was just "Ok" for me.
What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions is one of my favourite books to recommend to people. So when I heard there is a new book available, I was super excited.

But then listening to th
Allen Adams

There are plenty of books out there that aim to tell you how to do something. Whether its DIY home repair or computer programming or self-help or what have you, there’s probably a book that purports to tell you how to do it. These books bill themselves as offering straightforward instructions on doing whatever it is you seek to do.

But maybe you’re not looking for straightforward. Maybe the how-tos (hows-to?) you’re looking for are needlessly complicated, convoluted and/or fl
Aug 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Conceptually, not quite as interesting to me as What If?, but still brainy, oddball fun. The kind of book you think you're going to dip in and out of, but then end up reading for surprisingly sustained periods.
An unfortunately severe case of ‘I wanted to like it more than I did’. Randall Munroe’s latest book is How To: Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-World Problems, following in the vein of his previous work, What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions . And, fairly or unfairly, I keep comparing the two books in my head, and How To just keeps coming up short.

How To works by taking straightforward questions (“How to Jump Really High”, “How to Ski”) and answering them in the most over-the-top way/>How‘I
Kelly K
Oct 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
Officially a 90's kid. This book told me so. Though chicken pox will probably be my demise since I never had them. It's probably the only thing I have in common with teenagers now.
Dab away those pox.
Yeet yo probs.
I hate myself.
Sep 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
I am a long time XKCD fan. His science based humor is always a delight. I enjoyed his three previous books, so I happily put everything else on hold when I picked up his fourth book, _How To_.

Everything here is plausible. Backed with equations! Or as the author states, physics doesn't judge. The equations simply tell you what is and is not possible. So while a solution may be absurd, it doesn't break the laws of physics as we know them today. That is super cool, as it gets my kids th
Sep 18, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science, non-fiction
My interest in this waxed and waned over the course of the book: Munroe would be working through the kind of physics equations I despised in college, only to stumble upon something profound (to me). For example, a lot of blather about fundamental acceleration limits suddenly comes to two interesting conclusions; that world travel could eventually be cut down to 48 minutes (as in, 48 minutes or less of travel time to get anywhere in the world) and that it’s unlikely large-scale daily commuting to ...more
Bruno Ctenas
Oct 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science, galhofa
Im a longtime fan of Randall's work. By now I do not only find mathematics, science, humor and wit, with just the right dose of optimism. By now I could honestly say I find the comfort of a favourite blancket with a nice cup of tea. This may be his best book yet. ...more
Vasil Kolev
Sep 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
Wonderful book, makes you laugh and is full of little or unknown gems of information. Also contains one of the most comprehensive guides for landing.
Oct 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is ... exactly as advertised, and as delightful as Munroe's other amazing books (my favorite is of course Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words because it's absurdly large and complicated in its details). But this book, How-To, offers more text and therefore more of an insight into how Munroe's weird and nerdy brain works, which is a pleasure in and of itself. I particularly liked the chapters on nineties kids and what to do with the book after you're done with it (launch it into the sun ...more
Sep 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While not as strong as What If, this volume of applying science to situations well beyond the level of absurdity is still very entertaining. From using Butterflies to transport data to the temperature issues involved in building a lava moat, Munroe provides coherent scientific explanations for absurd situations with his dry humor and love of numbers. The celebrity inclusions are inspired and informative as well, and the art is vintage XKCD. While ultimately nothing in the book is practical, that ...more
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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.
“Bats—which catch insects by emitting pulses of ultrasound and listening for the echoes—can hear up to around 150 KHz.” 0 likes
“If you’re worried that the house will blow away, or that some prankster will attach jet engines and send it blasting off into the distance,” 0 likes
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