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

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4.15  ·  Rating details ·  16,425 ratings  ·  1,655 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 complex, excessive, and inadvisable that no one would ever try it. How To is a guide to the
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Hardcover, 308 pages
Published September 3rd 2019 by Riverhead Books
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Average rating 4.15  · 
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 ·  16,425 ratings  ·  1,655 reviews


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Miranda Reads
Feb 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
3.75 stars
description

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 best high jumper.
2. Cheat.
Mu
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Mario the lone bookwolf
Nonfiction books that are based on answering questions in unconventional ways, giving different answers to one question like in John Brockman´s series, extrapolating ideas and general taking the boooooring out of science, are a great way to get everyone fascinated.

This book has some crazy, but well explained and profound ideas for more or less daily problems and gets one interested in the technology and physics of many ignored details of life. Mind games, creativity techniques, free association
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Tucker  (TuckerTheReader)

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 I
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Manny
How to Read This Book

You may think that reading this book is easy, and all you have to do is let your eyes move over the words in the right order while paying attention. You probably expect that method to work and not take more than a few hours. On the other hand, suppose that the only language you know is Kalaallisut, an Inuit-Aleut language spoken by about 50,000 people most of whom live in Greenland. Kalaallisut and English are completely different, and if you only know Kalaallisut you probab
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Jenna is buying a house and mostly too busy for GR ❤ ❀  ❤


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 th
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Lindsay
Sep 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science, humor
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 st
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Bradley
Dec 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019-shelf, humor, science
As always, when I read a funny book, BUT I'm also listening to a narration by Wil Wheaton, I'm suddenly nearly incapable of figuring out whether I love the book for its content or presentation.

Gaaaah!

Fortunately, I had a great time with both, seamlessly upping my chuckle factor by a few magnitudes as I learn how wrong it would be to make a really, really huge teakettle. *hint* (the rivers of lava might make your homeowner's association a bit upset.)

The most fascinating feature, other than just e
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Alex Givant
Dec 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: best-of-2019, science
Excellent set of real life problems with unreal solutions, but all of them based on pure science. Each of them are to enjoy and think about.
Kon R.
May 19, 2021 rated it really liked it
This was a lot of fun. The amount of drawings and diagrams make this feel like a textbook. If you're feeling burnt out from the typical read this makes for a great palette cleanser. The majority of chapters were filled with interesting knowledge, but I will admit there were a few duds (chapters are fairly short, so not as bad as a chapter of GoT where you truly don't care wtf happens to Sansa). I failed to click the blue asterisks in the eBook version to read the footnotes which is a considerabl ...more
HBalikov
Oct 07, 2021 rated it liked it
Randall Munroe is becoming famous (notorious?) for this type of book. Create a problem or ask a ridiculous question and then find even more ridiculous ways of “solving” that challenge.

Interested in throwing things, perhaps a silver dollar across a river as George Washington was reputed to have done? Here is Munroe’s less than completely helpful advice:

"This model isn’t perfect. It’s an unwieldy set of equations, and it’s based on just a few input variables and extremely simple assumptions, so it
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Natalie Monroe
A bit too sciencey for my tastes. I skimmed the math-filled parts and the rest of it just wasn't enough to tickle the funny bone.

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David Rubenstein
Dec 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
Randall Munroe is the author of the web site xkcd.com, The web site is a collection of science-oriented absurdist cartoons. If you have never had the opportunity to visit this web site--do so immediately! It's a lot of fun!.

This book follows closely on the web site's approach, and that of his previous book What If?: Randall Munroe Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions Summary & Takeaways. This is obviously a "How To ..." sort of book. Some of the questions it asks, like "Ho
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library ghost (midnights era)
you might not know how to power your house on mars but i do after reading this so yk when we are moving to mars stick with me ;)
Jim
Jun 27, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Munroe writes the xkcd comic, so this is humorous, but there are a lot examples of the proper use of physics. Besides, who doesn't want to explore the myriad ways to dig a hole or create a lava moat around your house? I thought I'd have to read another book in between, but between intriguing investigations & Wil Wheaton narrating, it had no trouble keeping my attention & it kept me chuckling the whole time.

I'll let the ToC speak for the rest. Those marked with an arrow weren't in the audio book.
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Leah
Jan 21, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
(3.5/5 stars) This book is so interesting and entertainingly funny lol Randall Munroe is someone you hope to meet at a party and get to laugh at his jokes while at the same time he teaches you things XD

Really odd random questions providing scientific answers. You learn some random scientific facts along the way. They're questions you'd never ask but once you hear it you want to know the answer. Some of the questions are kinda boring lol but overall this book is entertaining and interesting

"How t
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Abigail
IM SCREAMING I NEED THIS NOW

INJECT THE SPILLAGE OF YOUR NERD MIND DEEP INSIDE MY CRAVING BONES!!! FILL ME WITH POINTLESS KNOWLEDGE!!!
Emily
Nov 28, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Meh

Really liked the author's first book, this one just was too ridiculous. I ended up skipping big sections of it.
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Paperclippe
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 material you're about to build your
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Geordie
Dec 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Looking back over my year of reading, it really feels like I read more crappy books than good ones. Even the ones I enjoyed, I tended to fill my reviews with the things that were flawed and disappointing. Is it my cynicism? Is it the lurid state of book publishing these days?
Well, whatever it is, this book is a refreshing remedy, and a perfect high-note to end my 2019 reading with. I earnestly don't think I had a single problem with "How To: Absurd Science Advice for Common Real-World Problems".
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Elvina Zafril
Sep 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pansing
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 dispose of the b
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Rossdavidh
Nov 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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 with a tennis
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Peter Derk
Sep 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
I like this shit. So impractical!

How come we didn't learn more impractical science in school? You can learn so many scientific ideas by applying them in ridiculous ways to ridiculous degrees. Instead we did shit like filling out charts of Jupiter's mass. Which I do not remember, is not a useful fact, probably will not play any part in my life, and saying that something is a bajillion kilometers in diameter? That doesn't mean shit. Let's talk about how long it would take to drive the circumferen
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KC
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.
Amanja
Dec 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an abridged review, to see the full one with all the pictures please visit https://amanjareads.com/2019/12/24/ho...

Randall Munroe is the engineer/cartoonist behind that science positive comic strip with the stick figures that you may have seen before.

I've been a fan of his for years now. He has an absurdist sense of humor and marvelous creativity, both of which are on full display in his latest book How To.

How to answers many every day and not so every day questions such as how to dig a
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Sebastian Gebski
Feb 06, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Short, but fun.

The problems covered are not really that weird, nevertheless, it's the solutions that are the real source of fun - how far Munroe's considerations go, w/o all the constraints brought by the common sense (which is completely banned here).

I was listening to the audiobook version and it comes with one big pro and one big con. The pro is (obviously) Will Wheaton - super-engaged, naturally enthusiastic, a real pleasure to listen to. The con is the fact that this book would probably wor
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Marjolein (UrlPhantomhive)
Read all my reviews on http://urlphantomhive.booklikes.com

How to ... Read This Review?

Traditionally one would open the website or perhaps the app and simply read the review I am about to write. But what if you prefer something more unconventional, or maybe you have been staring at screens more than enough lately, but would still like to know what it says. You could ask/hire someone to read it for you, of course. But what if you were to hire an add-plane and read it from there. Nice outdoors.
...more
Narilka
Jan 13, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2021, audio
Rating : 3.5 stars

Have you ever wondered if you could open bottles using nuclear bombs because regular bottle openers are boring? Or how much cheese it would take to contain a pool because who needs concrete? No? Never fear! Randall Munroe has you covered in his book How To: Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-world Problems. The title really says it all on this one.

It's an entertaining and silly read. Scenarios in the book include:

• How to jump really high
• How to land a plane
• How to dig
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Deborah
It is very funny, but there were some questions I wanted usable answers to.
Jamie
Nov 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Absurdly fun just like Randall Monroe always is.
Kitsune
Sep 19, 2019 rated it it was ok
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 th
...more
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4,620 followers
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.

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