ASK Musings

No matter where you go, there you are.



December 2019



How To by Randall Munroe

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Three Stars

Best for:
People who like science and humor.

In a nutshell:
Author Munroe takes on everyday problems like ‘How to Move’ with increasingly absurd advice like ‘get a bunch of helicopters to do that’, and then explains the science behind it.

Worth quoting:
When discussing using trained birds of prey to knock drones out of the sky: “…but any plan that calls for countering rogue machines by training animals to hurl themselves at them is probably a bad one. We wouldn’t enforce speed limits by training cheetahs to leap onto motorcycles.”

Why I chose it:
I enjoyed his previous two books.

This book is absurd. That’s not an insult; it’s literally in the title. But absurd is delightful, as Munroe uses physics and other science to offer up silly solutions to problems. For example, what if you need to knock a drone out of the sky? Why not ask Serena Williams to see how many tries it takes a professional tennis player to hit a tennis ball at it? (He did, and she obliged, because she continues to be amazing.) Or what if you need to charge your phone at the airport – any way to harness the energy from the moving escalators?

You aren’t going to actually use any of the advice in this book, but that’s not the point. The point is to incorporate science into our understanding of the world. And it’s once again a clever way to do that. Munroe is a talented teacher, and I’ll probably always buy his books, though Thing Explainer is still my favorite.

I lost a bit of steam reading this book. I started out reading a few chapters before bed each night, and I should have stuck with that. It’s PERFECT for that. It’s not a political book that’s going to rile you up so much you can’t sleep and while some chapters are so funny that you want to keep reading, it’s not like a novel where you just need to know what happens next. My issue came when I tried reading it at other times of the day. I just couldn’t get into it. So, definitely check it out if it sounds interesting, but consider it an ‘over time’ not an ‘all at once’ read.

Keep it / Pass to a Friend / Donate it / Toss it:
Pass to a Friend (my partner)

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