Entertainment Weekly

Subscribe

Stay Connected

Subscribe

Advertise With Us

Learn More

Skip to content

Article

XKCD creator explains the solar system using only the most common English words

Posted on

For years, the popular webcomic xkcd has woven together subjects as complex as history, physics, and politics (among many others) into easily-understandable stick figure drawings. Now, cartoonist Randall Munroe has blown out that sensibility into a full-length book. 

The Thing Explainer seeks to elucidate complicated ideas, but only using the 1,000 most common words in the English language. Munroe first tried the concept in the XKCD comic “Up Goer Five,” which used this method to explain the Saturn V Rocket. His previous book, What If?, taught lessons about science using absurd hypotheticals (i.e. how much energy is generated when Sauron’s eye explodes in The Lord of the Rings).

Check out an exclusive preview of the book above, a two-page spread explaining “Worlds Around the Sun.” Mars, for example, is explained as “The Little Red World” which “had seas on it when it was very young, but now it’s cold and the seas are gone. It’s called the red world because there’s metal in the sand, and it turned red over time, for the same reason that old keys or trucks turn red on Earth if you leave them outside for a long time.”

SciShow host Hank Green also made a video adaptation of this chapter. Check it out above.

The Thing Explainer is out Tuesday from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Comments