What If? author and XKCD creator Randall Munroe is ready to show you How To
He asked you What If? He offered the ultimate Thing Explainer. Now, he’s doling out advice that nobody asked for. Introducing How To: Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-World Problems.
EW can exclusively announce the next book from best-selling science-entertainment author and xkcd creator Randall Munroe, whose books have sold millions of copies worldwide. How To is described as “the world’s most entertaining and useless self-help guide,” offering absurd, highly impractical, and reliably informative advice on how to do simple things in the most complicated, difficult way.
Among what you’ll learn from this book: How to predict the weather by analyzing the pixels of your Facebook photos; how to tell if you’re a baby boomer or a 90s kid by measuring the radioactivity of your teeth; how to take a selfie with a telescope; and how to get to your appointments on time by destroying the Moon. Munroe also shares some unexpected advice for what to do with How To when you’ve finished reaching.
Of course, the book’s aim isn’t merely to leave you scratching your head. As in his previous books, Munroe goes intricate and weird to present a unique, fascinating way of exploring science and what’s possible in our world. EW named What If? one of 2014’s best books of the year, so safe to say we’re excited to see what the author has in store next.
See the official cover above, and read on below for our interview with Munroe, where he teases what to expect from How To. The book publishes Sept. 3.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When did you realize there you had a book in you on this specific topic?
RANDALL MUNROE: I’ve always been a big fan of taking ordinary tasks and thinking of terrible ways to do them, especially if they involve unusual science or engineering, and then trying to figure out whether they’d actually work. Whether the answer is “yes” or “no,” it’s fun to learn why and how.
But as hard as I try to come up with ridiculous ideas, reality often manages to be even weirder. Sometimes, I discover that not only did someone come up with an even more ridiculous idea than mine, they’ve actually tried it. Using a nuclear weapon as a bottle opener sounds like a bad idea — and it is! But people have done some pretty strange things. I’m excited to share some of that weirdness.
Why do you think it’s important for people to know the science and technology behind our everyday activities — particularly in this day and age?
One of the exciting things about science is how it ties together the mundane and the extreme. Incandescent light bulbs give off light by the same mechanism as the surface of the Sun. The water that fills your bathroom sink is the same substance that pours over Niagara Falls, governed by some of the same equations. Understanding one can help you understand the other.
Thinking about how to apply ideas from science and technology to everyday life helps make those ideas more real and concrete. And sometimes, an idea that seems ridiculous might actually turn out to be surprisingly practical.
Besides, this stuff is just fun!
Can you tease a favorite bit of advice from the book?
Lifting a house off the ground and making it hover wouldn’t take as many airliner jet engines as you might expect. But it would probably get you in trouble with the FAA.
Anything surprising or different your fans should expect from this new book? If so, what?
I’ve occasionally contacted experts to answer questions before, but there are one or two chapters in this book where I was able to reach out to some particularly unusual people who generously agreed to lend their unique expertise. That turned out to be one of my favorite parts of the book, and I’m excited to share the results.