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

4.34  ·  Rating details ·  681 ratings  ·  105 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
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published September 3rd 2019 by Riverhead Books
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4.34  · 
Rating details
 ·  681 ratings  ·  105 reviews

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Miranda Reads
Feb 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
About mother-freaking time!

This was SUCH a fun book :)

Review to come

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
Abigail (AbigailsHeadspace)

Aug 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
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.
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
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
Sep 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Very funny and actually educational! Despite the silly premisses, each chapter does give fundamental answers how everyday life works.
I love Randall Munroe. He writes ridiculous science and makes it fun. Even if you're not science savvy, this would be an enjoyable book
Aug 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019, arc, nonfiction, science
For xkcd fans, or people who like math or science. Plenty of equations that you can either read or skim over.
Jun 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I loved this book!

I've been a fan of Randall Munroe since his early years writing for xkcd and was so excited to get a chance to read his latest work. It does not disappoint. In fact, it went beyond what I was expecting with special guest appearances by Col. Chris Hadfield and Serena Williams.

The title describes the book perfectly. Did you ever wonder how to land a plane on a ski jump? How about how much guyere cheese would be needed to make a sturdy above ground pool? What about building a la
Jun 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Funny and informative. I always enjoy Munroe's drawing style and humor and he doesn't disappoint in this one. The chapters are great and his ways to solve problems are always interesting, funny, and of course, weird. My favorite chapter would have to be on "How to Catch a Drone." I really enjoyed that he presented it through the perspective of different athletes' chances of taking down a drone. The chapters on houses went on a little longer that was probably necessary but Munroe always presents ...more
Allen Adams
Sep 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing

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, c
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 them
Sep 19, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science, audiobooks, 2019
Hypothesis: Given that What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions is not only wildly entertaining and informative but also one of the 47 books on my "All-Time Favorite Non-fiction" list, then its follow up (this book) should be similarly good.

Experiment to test the hypothesis: Listened to the audiobook

Analysis of Data: This book was nowhere near as enjoyable as What If. I enjoyed it quite a bit through one chapter, or whichever chapter was "How to dig a hole". I though
Kenya Starflight
Sep 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-i-love
Though I'm only a casual reader of Randall Munroe's "xkcd" webcomic, I loved his book What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions which managed to find scientifically-grounded answers to such ludicrous questions as "what if everyone in the world jumped at once?" or "could you build an actual table out of the elements in the periodic table of elements?" In this book, Randall takes the opposite tack -- he takes mundane, everyday tasks (or at least mundane projects) and fi ...more
Michelle Adamo #emptynestreader
👨🏼🔬I had the pleasure of hearing author Randall Munroe speak at the University of Michigan the other night. It was a delightful evening with this fun, self-effacing, genius. For those that are unfamiliar with Monroe, he is a former NASA Roboticist who left the agency in 2006 to draw comics on the internet full time.(If that sounds a bit odd to you, consider that Mike Judge, creator of the series Beavis and Butt-Head, formerly a physicist, did the same thing.)

👨🏼🔬Russell has written several books
Tanwen Cooper
Aug 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I received this book for free from a colleague who had three preview copies in exchange for a donut, but thought I would give it an honest review anyway

Really enjoyed this book. The book takes simple questions like 'how do I change a light bulb' then gives an outlandish explanation, but one that is grounded firmly in reality and has all the science and maths behind it worked out. However, the plans are all conveyed with Munroe's signature wit and humour so that you don't really notice the heavy
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
I would only recommend this book if you can get it for $1.99 or less because while it has some interesting and entertaining bits, it mostly felt phoned-in.

That’s all you really need to know about this book. The chapters are all on some very basic concept like “How to throw a pool party” or “How to arrive on time,” where Munroe overanalyzes it and gets into progressively more outlandish ways to reach the intended result. Here’s the rub: with the former example, Munroe gives physics reasons, calcu
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 st
Diane Hernandez
Sep 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: edelweiss
If you ever wondered How To send a letter home from the space station or land a space shuttle in downtown LA, I have the perfect instruction book for you.

What if I use real science to solve hypothetical problems? For example, how can I get rid of this book after I finish reading it? I can leave it outside, but it won’t degrade and return to the Earth for centuries. I can burn it and use the resulting energy to power my car. I could do what the US does with nuclear waste. Throw it in a deep hole,
Sugavanesh Balasubramanian
Absurd is an understatement for the kind of solutions he provides but therein lies the key. He painstakingly tries to make his solutions absurd which has worked perfectly well, keeping it informative, engaging and laughably funny most times, but kinda 'trying too hard' the other times. I guess it also goes with the structure of the book. He says it right there 'an instruction manual'. So, as funny and out of the world as it gets, it reads like an instruction manual. 'What If', which I adored was ...more
Jul 15, 2019 rated it liked it
ARC Given by NetGalley for Honest Review

3.5 Stars! Randall Munroe, author and artist of popular webcomic "xkcd", brings us another wacky and super scientific longform book on how to ridiculously solve real world problems. The book lives up to it's subtitle and really gives us the useless self-help we weren't looking for but now know we need. When webcomic artists convert their style to longform books some of the charm and humor can be lost. Unfortunately for this specific work I found out that b
Sep 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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 thinking of al
Sep 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science, how-to
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
'Physics doesn't care if your question os wierd, It just gives you the answer without judging'

If that doesn't sum up this book, i think the full title will.

A brilliant read, that combines science, and absurdity and leaves you knowledge that will likely never come in handy, except as an obscure conversation starter

Me: *at a pool party* "...Cool pool. I see you went with plastic? Not a big fan of gruyere cheese? Only need 2ft of it each side you know"

I loved What If, and Thing Explainer, so add
Sep 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

A surprisingly informative book on math, science and history (especially Cold War history), as Munroe irrelevantly explores the most round-about, expensive and / or dangerous (yet scientifically accurate) ways to do all sorts of mundane (dig a hole) and not so mundane (move a house) tasks.

My favorite was How to Make an Emergency Landing, which consisted of Randall interviewing the awesome astronaut Chris Hadfield, trying to flummox him with more and more outrageous situations – On an emerging s
Jul 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I received an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I've been reading XKCD forever, and I enjoyed Munroe's previous two books. If you are unfamiliar with his humor, go check out the webcomic. If it doesn't make sense to you, you might want to avoid this book. How to is very similar to What if...? in that you get ridiculous ways of solving problems. He explains how to dig a hole, throw a pool party, determine when you were born and dispose of the book when you are done with it, among
Sep 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Similar in style to What If? and nearly as hilarious.

My favorite thing about this book is that some of the chapters defer the questions to experts. Randall takes the role of question asker and does his best to fluster the experts with ridiculous questions, to which the experts responded by answering every question without even a hint of hesitation. My personal favorite chapter (and Munroe's favorite as well) was "How to Make an Emergency Landing." Astronaut and test pilot Chris Hadfield takes ev
Jacques Bezuidenhout
Sep 19, 2019 rated it it was ok
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 the audiobook, it is unfortunate that the narrator Will Wheaton was the best part about it.

Sure it is a fun, easy listening book. But there wasn't much that excited me about it. Unlike the predecessor, there isn't really anything here that would
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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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