Growing up David Macaulay taught me Science with his book The Way Things Work. Randall Munroe, author of XKCD, has taken up the mantle with his wry and aptly titled new book Thing Explainer. An excellent gift for the curious child or the interested adult. Munroe's clear illustrations and clearer prose make it easy to delight in scientific discovery.
Have you ever tried to learn more about some incredible thing, only to be frustrated by incomprehensible jargon? Randall Munroe is here to help. In Thing Explainer, he uses line drawings and only the thousand (or, rather, “ten hundred”) most common words to provide simple explanations for some of the most interesting stuff there is, including:
food-heating radio boxes (microwaves)
tall roads (bridges)
computer buildings (datacenters)
the shared space house (the International Space Station)
the other worlds around the sun (the solar system)
the big flat rocks we live on (tectonic plates)
the pieces everything is made of (the periodic table)
planes with turning wings (helicopters)
boxes that make clothes smell better (washers and dryers)
the bags of stuff inside you (cells)
How do these things work? Where do they come from? What would life be like without them? And what would happen if we opened them up, heated them up, cooled them down, pointed them in a different direction, or pressed this button? In Thing Explainer, Munroe gives us the answers to these questions and so many more. Funny, interesting, and always understandable, this book is for anyone—age 5 to 105—who has ever wondered how things work, and why.
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, supporting himself through the sale of xkcd t-shirts, prints, posters, and books. He likes candlelight dinners and long walks on the beach. Very long walks. Lots of people say they like long walks on the beach, but then they get out on the beach and after just an hour or two, they say they’re getting tired. Bring a tent. He lives in Massachusetts.
“Brilliant…a wonderful guide for curious minds.”—Bill Gates
“Like any good work of science writing, [Thing Explainer] is equal parts lucid, funny, and startling.’’—NewYorker.com
"Clever, intricate" —New York Magazine, The Approval Matrix ("highbrow, brilliant")
"Funny, precise and beautifully designed" —The Guardian
"...with witty, playful diagrams, you'll be understanding nuclear reactors ('heavy metal power buildings') in no time." —NPR.org, Best Books of 2015
"Whimsical...Munroe’s masterpiece is the antidote to scientific jargon, ably demonstrating that not knowing the exact name for something doesn’t mean you can’t grasp how it works. The same holds for those doing the explaining: you don’t need to use big words to convey meaning. If anything, it just gets in the way." —Gizmodo, Best Science Books of 2015
"Required reading for the curious." —Popular Science
"This book is a feast for the eyes and a party for your brain. I cannot more highly recommend that you get this for yourself, your favorite nerd, or someone who just loves beautiful drawings." —Scientific American
"One of the charms of this new book is that it imbues everything between its covers with a childlike and unpretentious sense of delight in humanity's intellectual achievements."—Tor.com
"[Thing Explainer] soars in both explanatory clarity and entertainment value...Munroe delightfully challenges us to reassess our preconceptions and think of things in new ways." —American Scientist
“Munroe’s signature humor and firm grasp on the underlying science and engineering make the book a delightful and informative read.” —Science Magazine
"Thing Explainer overall is unintimidating and engaging, with lavish blueprint-like illustrations that draw you into just about every page...Munroe has a gift for turning his own curiosity into your own edification." —CNET
"I think a lot of people will have a lot of fun reading this book. Even if you know many big ideas, it is fun to see them get very small. And if you just want to learn about how things work, then the book will show you some big ideas without hitting you with big words too. As an idea for how to write a book, I think Thing Explainer is a good one." —Nerdist
PRAISE FOR WHAT IF?
"Toreinvigorate your sense of cosmic wonder...breeze through former NASA scientist Munroe's lively answers—peppered with line drawings—to some pretty bizarre questions about life, the universe, and everything else...Extreme astrophysics and indecipherable chemistry have rarely been this clearly explained or this consistently hilarious."—Entertainment Weekly "10 Best Nonfiction Books of the Year"
"Catchy and approachable...There's plenty of scientific rigor behind his elaborate explanations but he punctuates them with sly humor and winningly primitive cartoon diagrams...A cut above so many popular science and technology books."—NPR.org
"Consistently fascinating and entertaining...Munroe leavens the hard science with whimsical touches...An illuminating handbook of methods of reasoning."—Wall Street Journal
"Education should aim to teach people to reason confidently about problems that they have never come across before. This book is a great deal of fun, and a masterclass in such reasoning. Like all the best lessons, you only realise you’ve learned something once you’ve finished it."—The Economist
"Munroe takes inane, useless and often quite pointless questions asked by real humans (mostly sent to him through his website), and turns them into beautiful expositions on the impossible that illuminate the furthest reaches, almost to the limits, of the modern sciences…The answers are all illustrated with XKCD’s trademark stick figures...and these are eminently approachable." —Newsweek
"What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions includes old favorites, new inquiries and the mix of expert research and accessible wit that has made Munroe a favorite among both geeks and laymen." —TIME
"Loaded with the same dry wit and blank-faced stick figures that populate xkcd, What If? is that rare book that will have you laughing as you learn just how a mass extinction might unfold."—Discover