How To: Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-World Problems

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How To
How To xkcd Cover.jpg
AuthorRandall Munroe
CountryUnited States
PublishedSeptember 3, 2019
PublisherRiverhead Books

How To: Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-World Problems is a book by Randall Munroe in which the author provides absurd suggestions based in scientific fact on ways to solve some common and some absurd problems.[1][2][3] The book contains a range of possible real-world and absurd problems, each the focus of a single chapter. The book was released on September 3, 2019.[4]


Munroe had the idea for How To while working on his 2014 book, What If?, which answered questions submitted by readers of Munroe's blog. While working on the book, Munroe started to think about problems that he would like to solve and the consequences of solving them in different ways.[1]

While researching his answers for How To, Munroe investigated how to dry out a phone that has fallen in water. However, he could not find a reliable practical answer, and did not want to give readers bad information. Ultimately, Munroe decided to omit the question from his book.[1]

As part of researching the chapter on "How to Catch a Drone", Munroe reached out to professional tennis player Serena Williams to knock a drone out of the sky by hitting it with a tennis ball. Williams' husband Alexis Ohanian piloted the drone, making it hover just over a tennis net, and Williams successfully batted it down on her third try.[5]

How To is Munroe's third published book, after What If? in 2014 and Thing Explainer in 2015.[2][6]


How To contains the following chapters, with each chapter exploring a range of solutions, both plausible and absurd, to a particular problem:[1][7]

  1. How to Jump
  2. How to Throw a Pool Party
  3. How to Dig a Hole
  4. How to Play the Piano
  5. How to Make an Emergency Landing
  6. How to Cross a River
  7. How to Move
  8. How to Keep Your House from Moving
  9. How to Build a Lava Moat
  10. How to Throw Things
  11. How to Play Football
  12. How to Predict the Weather
  13. How to Play Tag
  14. How to Ski
  15. How to Mail a Package
  16. How to Power Your House (on Earth)
  17. How to Power Your House (on Mars)
  18. How to Make Friends
  19. How to Send a File
  20. How to Charge Your Phone
  21. How to Take a Selfie
  22. How to Catch a Drone
  23. How to Tell if You're a Nineties Kid
  24. How to Win an Election
  25. How to Decorate a Tree
  26. How to Get Somewhere Fast
  27. How to Be On Time
  28. How to Dispose of This Book

In between chapters, there are a few short answers: How to Listen to Music, How to Chase a Tornado, How to Go Places, How to Blow Out Birthday Candles, How to Walk a Dog, and How to Build a Highway.


The book was received positively by critics. Stephen Shankland of CNET stated that it "will make you laugh as you learn". Shankland contended that How To forces the reader to "appreciate the glorious complexity of our universe and the amazing breadth of humanity’s effort to comprehend it" through its "hilariously edifying answers" to some everyday and some improbable questions.[2] Publishers Weekly described the text as "generously laced with dry humor" with "Munroe’s comic stick-figure art [being an] added bonus."[8]


  1. ^ a b c d Gartenberg, Chaim (September 3, 2019). "XKCD's Randall Munroe on his new book How To and the joys of using science to build lava moats". The Verge. Retrieved May 1, 2020.
  2. ^ a b c Shankland, Stephen. "If you like nerd comic XKCD, you'll like its author's new book, How To". CNET. Retrieved May 1, 2020.
  3. ^ "Randall Munroe's Absurd Science For Real-World Problems". Retrieved May 1, 2020.; Martinelli, Marissa (September 6, 2019). "The Creator of Xkcd on the Joys of Overthinking Everything". Slate Magazine. Retrieved May 1, 2020.
  4. ^ "How To by Randall Munroe: 9780525537090 | Books". Retrieved May 1, 2020.
  5. ^ C4ISRNET, Kelsey D. Atherton. "Serena Williams blasting a quadcopter with a tennis ball provides an important lesson about anti-drone defense". Business Insider. Retrieved 2020-05-14.
  6. ^ Shankland, Stephen. "'Thing Explainer': Fun if you enjoy puzzles, annoying if you just want to learn". CNET. Retrieved 2020-05-13.
  7. ^ Munroe, Randall (2019). How to : absurd scientific advice for common real-world problems. New York. ISBN 978-0-593-08637-7. OCLC 1109803187.
  8. ^ "Nonfiction Book Review: How To: Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-World Problems by Randall Munroe". 2019-09-03. Retrieved 2020-05-17.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)