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Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words Hardcover – November 24, 2015
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“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
From the Inside Flap
From the creator of the webcomicxkcdand author of the #1New York TimesbestsellerWhat If?, a series of brilliantly and simply! annotated blueprints that explain everything from nuclear bombs to ballpoint pens
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)
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Top customer reviews
I'm a teacher at a school for people who already know a lot, and who are very good at what they do. (I teach them about power for our lights and machines.) We use big words and special names all the time. But I sometimes ask my students to try explaining complicated stuff using only simple words, because when you do that, you find out whether you really understand it. It forces you to ask, what is the most important idea here? I wish more teachers did this.
Putting ideas into simple words can also help you recognize how different words carry meaning other than just telling you what something is. This is especially true for things that people often have strong feelings about, like the laws of the land, or our body parts for making new people, or machines for burning cities. Special words can quietly suggest if something is a good or a bad idea, or cover up bad feelings. Playing the game of using only simple words can help you see things more clearly for what they actually are, and say just what you mean. So, this book shows us a way to pay special attention to how our own thinking bag works. And I think that's really, really cool.
The man that wrote the book wrote about "Under a car's front cover" and the "US Space Team's Up Goer Five" and lots of things that have to do with a "Sky Boat." There is a page about "Colors of Light" but it is in black and white, so it is not as good as other pages. There is a big table in the middle that is "the pieces everything is made of" that has "the stuff they put in pools so nothing bad can grow in them," "brown metal that we use to carry power and voices" and "stuff you drink so doctors can look inside your body" along with all the other rocks and metals and air that is really fun to look at.
I paid money for "Thing Explainer" to put it under the tree for my seven year old, but I will have to read it before he does, I am sure.
The 'ten hundred words' limit does not get stale or ever truly 'limit' Munroe - he still manages to write some seriously interesting and educational stuff while keeping it entertaining. The whole way through you'll be making connections between what the simplified words mean and what you know from real life, but you'll also be learning a lot of new things. It's especially great when, through such simple terminology, you find out the answer to a question you never would've considered asking, like how Everest is not the furthest point from the center of earth, and that one of Uranus' moons once orbited the sun.
And that terminology gives way not only to humour but also to an insane amount of charm and sentiment. The introduction reads out like a child trying to explain why they've written a book. I personally love the section at the bottom of the page on "Tall Roads" (bridges) where Munroe writes with a child's voice about how bridges are so physically useful and well constructed, that life on other planets might use very similar models, and that somewhere, an alien might be looking at a bridge just like the one Munroe was looking at, and thinking about Munroe, too.
That kind of sentimentality is, I think, the central staple of Munroe's XKCD, and it only shines brighter in Thing Explainer due to the childlike wonder in the writing. Thing Explainer writes without expectation of understanding, prior knowledge of language, or any prior knowledge; it is one of the closest things to a window into someones thoughts.
I hope to clarify for many potential buyers that saw the early "Up Goes Five": this book is more focused on explaining things in paragraphs rather than the pure labelling style of that early prototype. This lends to a lot more explanations for the reasons behind things, rather than the one-dimensional humor of a pure 'translation' of the names of things. The book still has a large focus on drawings and writing about the drawings - certainly more than What If? had - but it also takes its time to go into depth about the function of things beyond their names.
I'd also like to clarify that this book is BIG! My expectation was a novel-sized book but it is in fact very large. Each page is very detailed, the book has fold out pages and a free poster, and the amount of individual topics is huge and will keep you entertained for a long time. INSANELY worth it for such a low amount of money! (I still cannot believe it was so cheap.)
This book is great for me and my family to make connections between what we already know and the book, but I believe it will also be great for kids to easily learn new things, and get a grasp of complex ideas.
A Thought: I'd love to see this style of writing carried across to genres beyond science, because I think it has the potential to make generally interesting yet charm-less writing far more fun; history books, biopics, even short stories. Perhaps someone will develop a system for 'translating' Wikipedia articles.
Most recent customer reviews
It explains some really interesting things you may want to know more about but does so in the MOST ELEMENTARY WAY.Read more