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How To summary

Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-World Problems

3.8 (74 ratings)
23 mins

Brief summary

'How To' by Randall Munroe is a humorous and informative guide that explains complex topics in simple terms using stick figures and absurd hypothetical scenarios. It's a fascinating read that teaches you how to solve real-world problems with a touch of humor.

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    How To
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    Key idea 1 of 8

    When crashing an airplane, slow and steady wins the race.

    Here’s a question that most self-help guides fail to answer: When you’re flying a small airplane over the countryside and it suddenly malfunctions, where should you crash land it?

    Your best bet is a freshly planted farm field. Cornfields are okay until the middle of June. You don’t want the crops to be too thick and tall, because then they might flip the plane over. A field of sunflowers, for instance, would be a bad idea. Alternatively, you can aim for a cow pasture. Just make sure you don’t run into any cows. Oh, and try not to have your airplane malfunction on a rainy day. You don’t want to land in mud.

    In a pinch, land on top of a train or a flatbed truck. Just slow your airplane down to match the speed of the vehicle, then gently touch down on top of it. Keep in mind that a train or a truck is always bumping up and down a little as it moves forward, so be careful not to bounce off as you land. That little issue aside, this is a totally viable technique. Air show pilots can do it, so there’s no reason you can’t do it, too.

    But what if you’re flying over the sea? In that case, you can employ a similar technique with an aircraft carrier, or even a surfaced submarine. Just ask the captain to steer his ship as fast as he can into the wind. This would give you headwinds of up to 60 miles per hour to fly against as you approach the ship. That will slow you down in relation to it, letting you land on a short surface. 

    To make your plane even slower as you land, you’ll want to turn off the throttle and put down your wing flaps – but make sure you retract them the moment you touch down. Otherwise, the wind could blow your plane off the ship. Also, keep your hand on the throttle and be ready to shove it forward to take off again, just in case you mess up.  

    After all, it’s better to be safe than sorry, and you can always try again. 

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    What is How To about?

    How To (2019) is an intentionally impractical, lighthearted guide to accomplishing a wide variety of tasks in extremely outlandish but plausible ways. Drawing from science, math and history, and combining them with a unique sense of humor, How To takes you on an amusing journey through some of reality’s most bizarre possibilities. 

    How To Review

    How To (2019) by Randall Munroe is a fascinating book that explores seemingly impossible scenarios and breaks them down into hilarious, yet scientifically accurate explanations. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • Intelligently humorous: Munroe's wit and clever illustrations make complex topics easy to understand and enjoyable to read.
    • Eye-opening experiments: The book provides curious readers with fun and thought-provoking experiments that challenge conventional wisdom.
    • In-depth explanations: Munroe's meticulous research and thorough explanations ensure that readers gain a deep understanding of each topic, no matter how absurd it may seem.

    Who should read How To?

    • Science geeks looking for scientifically-rigorous amusement 
    • Tech mavens ready to push technology to the limits 
    • Anyone who enjoys offbeat comedy

    About the Author

    Randall Munroe is the author of the popular webcomic xkcd and two New York Times best-selling books – What If? and Thing Explainer. He is a former NASA roboticist who left the agency in 2006 to pursue a full-time career drawing comics.  

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    How To FAQs 

    What is the main message of How To?

    Learning is an adventure! How To explores fascinating questions and delivers practical answers in a fun and accessible way.

    How long does it take to read How To?

    The reading time for How To varies, but it's worth the journey. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is How To a good book? Is it worth reading?

    How To is an enjoyable and enlightening read. It provides unique perspectives and practical tips that make it truly worth your time.

    Who is the author of How To?

    Randall Munroe is the author of How To.

    What to read after How To?

    If you're wondering what to read next after How To, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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