Randall Munroe, the engineer/author/cartoonist extraordinaire (most importantly- the creator of the excellent webcomic xkcd) is at it again with How To. He takes all sorts of simple questions and expands, explodes, and/or completely blows up the possible answers into a cacophony of hard science and absolute absurdity.
Say you want to throw something really far- he starts out with an anecdote about George Washington hucking (technical term) a silver dollar across a river, which turns into a breakdown of how far silver dollars could be thrown, which turns into how far other common objects could be thrown by people of specific areas of athletic prowess, which ultimately becomes a breakdown of how far Carly Rae Jepsen could throw George Washington. If you are curious about more “who could throw what and how far could they throw them”, Munroe has graciously created a “throw calculator” for you to while away the time.
I really enjoy his simple (yet surprisingly poignant) artwork, his matter-of-fact humor is both dry and ridiculous, and I appreciate that he backs up all of his nonsense with cold-hard-science. Want to know how to land a plane if you are locked out of the cockpit? How about if you have to land a commercial flight on an aircraft carrier that does NOT want you there? What if, instead of a plane, you have to land a giant mythical (and angry!) bird? Munroe wisely reached out to COMMANDER CHRIS HADFIELD to answer all of his flight-related questions, and MAN he delivers with patience, humor and facts!
Sometimes the facts can be a little much; that’s really a personal opinion. There is a LOT of math in here, and I am not a mathematically minded person. Not only are questions backed up with math, but the actual equations are mapped out and explained. I found myself going cross-eyed a few times throughout my read, but my husband- a total mathlete (he programs robots for a living) LOVED all of the hands-on practicality. If you are silly and science-curious you will enjoy this read, but if you are science-serious you may click on a deeper level.
If you aren’t familiar with xkcd or Munroe, allow me to leave you with my favorite of his comics. This strip is one of my favorite comics of all time. I reference the “Reverse Bel Air” on almost daily basis:
Also: I am feeling MIGHTY smug crossing off my “how to” box with the literal How To!