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AN INSTANT #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
 
“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 and the 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 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.

Review

“The creator of the popular, extremely excellent and not a little nerdy webcomic ‘xkcd’ cleverly illustrates a guide of complicated solutions to simple tasks, thinking up Rube Goldbergian solutions to tasks as common as digging a hole.” USA Today

“The mind behind the webcomic xkcd provides a slew of hilariously overcomplicated instructions for everything from throwing a pool party to winning an election, bringing his signature stick figures – and his singular wit – along for the ride. How To is a loving testament to the power of the human brain to take things to absurd lengths.” Glen Weldon, NPR

“[ How To] tackles problems from the mundane—such as how to move to a new house—to those that may trouble a mad scientist building her first lava moat. The solutions are often hilariously, and purposefully, absurd. Embedded in these solutions, however, is solid scientific, engineering, and experimental understanding . . . [for] anyone who appreciates science-based, but Rube Goldberg–esque, solutions to life’s problems.” Science Magazine

“How To is a pure delight, a salty-sweet mixture of hard science and bonkers whimsy.” BoingBoing

“A brilliant provocation of a book: clamber in for a wild ride.” Nature

“A witty, educational examination of ‘unusual approaches to common tasks’ . . . generously laced with dry humor . . . Munroe’s comic stick-figure art is an added bonus. . . .  Apart from generating laughter, the book also manages to achieve his serious objective: to get his audience thinking.” Publishers Weekly, starred review

“An enjoyable treat for fans of logic puzzles, brain hacking, kaizen, mad science, and other forms of mental stimulation.” Kirkus Reviews

“Munroe (creator of the webcomic xkcd; What If?; Thing Explainer) creates another fun series of questions and answers that explore forces, properties, and natural phenomena through pop-culture scenarios . . . With illustrated formulas that humorously explain the science behind Munroe’s conjectures, this book is sure to entertain and educate thinkers from high school on up.” Library Journal

How To is a gleefully nerdy hypothetical instruction book for armchair scientists of all ages.” Booklist

About the Author

Randall Munroe is the author of the #1 New York Times bestsellers What If? and Thing Explainer, the science question-and-answer blog What If, and the popular webcomic xkcd. A former NASA roboticist, he left the agency in 2006 to draw comics on the internet full-time. He lives in Massachusetts.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

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.

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4.8 out of 54.8 out of 5
4,399 global ratings

Top reviews from the United States

SeeOurBeach
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
How to write a review on Amazon
Reviewed in the United States on September 20, 2019
You could just click on the "Create Review" and just start writing about anything. I''m not sure anyone really validates the contents. For instance, if you look at the 1-star review, it complains about failing to share the audio version of this book in portugal.... See more
You could just click on the "Create Review" and just start writing about anything.
I''m not sure anyone really validates the contents. For instance, if you look at the 1-star review, it complains about failing to share the audio version of this book in portugal.

It is obvious that when one writes a review, you can give any number of stars for any reason:
"5 stars - Wonderfully informative! I''ve been held hostage by a mad hermit for the past 20 years and managed to get this book by someone who disposed it in my prison (a very deep well on some salt plains). Didn''t know half this stuff existed. This ''web'' thing sounds really cool. Can''t wait to try some of this out when I get out."
"4 stars - cuz I really like numbers that are squares (and ''1'' does not count)"
"3 stars - Great book but the people drawings lack faces thereby hiding the true and raw emotions of the characters.
"2 stars - The book fails as a door stop because of the slick cover"
"1 star - The book lacks clear instructions for most of the projects. For instance, I live on a fault line and wanted to try out the Tectonic Plate electrical generator. After a convincing argument in the book), I was expecting a shopping list and directions. But nooo... rather than put some work into it, the book just dismisses it as "ridiculous and technically infeasible". If I could give zero stars for this gross omission and author laziness I would."

Thanks for another great book, Randall!
330 people found this helpful
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Eliot
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Great Read, But Not Munroe''s Best Work
Reviewed in the United States on September 4, 2019
I am very fond of Munroe''s work, so when this was announced for only 10 quid, I was very intrigued. As a long time follower of Munroe''s work, incuding XKCD and the What If? blog, I was disapointed to find some of the humor in this book mising. Unlike What If? (The book), it... See more
I am very fond of Munroe''s work, so when this was announced for only 10 quid, I was very intrigued. As a long time follower of Munroe''s work, incuding XKCD and the What If? blog, I was disapointed to find some of the humor in this book mising. Unlike What If? (The book), it had half the cartoons/drawings, and would not be something that I would read again and again. I was still able to enjoy the maths behind the questions, but at the expense of a laugh. Would recommed for anyone who enjoys the science side of the conversation, but for anyone looking for laugh out loud humor, stick to XKCD or What If?.

I am rating this four stars because I am largely a math nerd, but it you are looking for a What If? #2, this is not the book for you.

Hope this helps,
Eliot
104 people found this helpful
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JKT
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Happy mom
Reviewed in the United States on September 10, 2019
My 15 year old son got this book and immediately tore into it. This boy HATES reading but having liked the comic series online, he was willing to give this a try. Judging by how much he comes out of his room to say “Mom, Mom – guess what he just said – it’s so funny” and... See more
My 15 year old son got this book and immediately tore into it. This boy HATES reading but having liked the comic series online, he was willing to give this a try. Judging by how much he comes out of his room to say “Mom, Mom – guess what he just said – it’s so funny” and then relays what he was reading about – I’d say my reluctant reader is a fan.
If you like the comics you’ll like this book. Same humor just expanded on in paragraph form.
76 people found this helpful
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scott-gamer
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
If you survive the solution, you''ll have solved the problem!
Reviewed in the United States on September 5, 2019
Randall Munroe maintains his high standard of humor in this book, taking problems and going for the absurd, extreme solutions. He points out the drawbacks to the solutions, such as if you build a lava moat around your house to keep ants out, you''ll always be downwind of the... See more
Randall Munroe maintains his high standard of humor in this book, taking problems and going for the absurd, extreme solutions. He points out the drawbacks to the solutions, such as if you build a lava moat around your house to keep ants out, you''ll always be downwind of the lava.
Buy this book!
Do NOT implement the solutions!
35 people found this helpful
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Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
a fun read
Reviewed in the United States on September 23, 2019
I doubt anyone would buy this without being familiar with the author and his online comic strip XKCD, and the associated "What if?" feature. They''re free online so go visit xkcd.com if you haven''t already. Also, this is not his first book. Since you know what you''re... See more
I doubt anyone would buy this without being familiar with the author and his online comic strip XKCD, and the associated "What if?" feature. They''re free online so go visit xkcd.com if you haven''t already. Also, this is not his first book. Since you know what you''re getting here, there should be no surprises- this is more of the same; fun and thoughtful explorations of what is (in theory) possible. I majored in physics- I don''t know Randal personally, but he is my kind of guy. I give this book two thumbs up.
25 people found this helpful
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Jason LaDue
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Great, funny book.
Reviewed in the United States on September 5, 2019
I laughed until I cried. People on the bus stared. Highest recommendation possible for a lovely time. Will read again.
26 people found this helpful
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Chad Evans
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Great easy read
Reviewed in the United States on September 3, 2019
Just got this today on day 1. Eleven year old boy loves it. Great fun comic graphics, fun intro to how to think about things logically, light math as examples, and just very approachable.
17 people found this helpful
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Marc
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Not as good as What If, but still well worth the read.
Reviewed in the United States on September 30, 2019
After the thouroughly disappointing Thing Explainer, Randall Munroe goes back to what made What If great: absurd physics situations. The format is a bit different, but those who liked What If, will find much to like here. Except that it is not as hilarious. However, it is... See more
After the thouroughly disappointing Thing Explainer, Randall Munroe goes back to what made What If great: absurd physics situations. The format is a bit different, but those who liked What If, will find much to like here. Except that it is not as hilarious. However, it is still quite amusing and as it is less absurd than What If, more practical (well, not that practical, be reassured).
6 people found this helpful
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Top reviews from other countries

Julien Basch
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Review from a 9 yr old
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on September 4, 2019
I showed this book to my 9 yr-old, hoping he would be enticed by the pictures. He has so far read four chapters, and gave me the following review: "I understand next to nothing but I read everything and I love it." I don''t think it is possible to give a stronger endorsement...See more
I showed this book to my 9 yr-old, hoping he would be enticed by the pictures. He has so far read four chapters, and gave me the following review: "I understand next to nothing but I read everything and I love it." I don''t think it is possible to give a stronger endorsement of the writing style.
67 people found this helpful
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John
2.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Avoid it.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on November 28, 2019
It was an impulse buy due to a low price offer it had for the hardcover... I regret spending that money, or any money at all... This book content is something you would watch on an imgur/9gag website or something and thumb up but its a totally waste of money and time...See more
It was an impulse buy due to a low price offer it had for the hardcover... I regret spending that money, or any money at all... This book content is something you would watch on an imgur/9gag website or something and thumb up but its a totally waste of money and time otherwise. When buying it I was under the impression it would have some actual brake down on how things work, like real world complex projects explained in a way for average people to understand the basic concept of it... like e.g "how a cpu is manufactured"or "how you get power from the grid" kind of topics or in the relevant nature of those where in my mind when purchasing this book, but instead you get some ridiculous ideas e.g how to change between airplanes while in mid air or drive an airplane while outside on the cockpit and on top of the craft... Which is ridiculous and useless and on top of that it doesn''t do a good job even at that... The book''s explanations even to these ridiculous matters are just HA """"explained"""" in a few lines missing a lot of facts... in other words it doesn''t even seriously tackle those ridiculous scenarios only presents a seemingly working workaround. Its like if you join a group at somebody''s home and you are college students and then you start a bonk and everybody says some stupid idea and briefly talks about how it would work.. THAT''s this book! Did not like it at all and it is not even worth to spend time and effort to return it.. just gonna stash it somewhere in my house..
29 people found this helpful
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admiralross2400
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
How to write a review
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on November 8, 2019
First, think of something humerous to call your review and some key points to get across. Items such as: Does not contain any bobcats Can be used as kindling for fire (unless you bought the kindle version) Should not be relied upon for real-world advice This is a brilliant...See more
First, think of something humerous to call your review and some key points to get across. Items such as: Does not contain any bobcats Can be used as kindling for fire (unless you bought the kindle version) Should not be relied upon for real-world advice This is a brilliant book, yet again, from Randall. It''s hilarious and thought-provoking in places...and it''s amazing how far Col. Hadfield was willing to be questioned! You''ll love it! Don''t put off buying it any further - do it! Do it now!
18 people found this helpful
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Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Wonderful, hilarious look at the world from the mind that brought us XKCD
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on September 17, 2019
This book is hilarious! I have read his XKCD online comic for many years and this is an extension of the smary, crazy, slightly nerdy comic. Loved it!
10 people found this helpful
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P Mota
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Funny and intellectually entertaining
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on December 14, 2019
Very funny. Always exploring things in unpredictable ways (generally the worst possible, which is funny). In doing so, we get to learn about the things he explores.
5 people found this helpful
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