Randall Munroe

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Randall Munroe
Munroe looking over a stack of rubber ducks on a table
Munroe stacking rubber ducks (2008)
BornRandall Patrick Munroe
(1984-10-17) October 17, 1984 (age 36)
Easton, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Area(s)Pen and pencil
webcomics, Physics
Notable works
xkcd, What If?, Thing Explainer, How To: Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-World Problems

Randall Patrick Munroe (born October 17, 1984)[1] is an American cartoonist, author, engineer, and the creator of the webcomic xkcd. He and the webcomic have developed a large fanbase, and shortly after graduating from college, he became a professional webcomic artist.[2]

Early life[edit]

Munroe was born in Easton, Pennsylvania, and his father has worked as an engineer and marketer.[3] He has two younger brothers, and was raised as a Quaker.[3][4] He was a fan of comic strips in newspapers from an early age,[2] starting off with Calvin and Hobbes.[5] After graduating from the Chesterfield County Mathematics and Science High School at Clover Hill, a Renaissance Program in Midlothian, Virginia, he graduated from Christopher Newport University in 2006 with a degree in physics.[6][7][third-party source needed]



Munroe worked as a contract programmer and roboticist for NASA at the Langley Research Center,[8][5] before and after his graduation.[citation needed] In October 2006 NASA did not renew his contract,[7][third-party source needed] and he moved to Boston to begin writing xkcd full time.[8]


"Wikipedian Protester", published on xkcd.com with title-text (tooltip): "SEMI-PROTECT THE CONSTITUTION".[9] On Wikipedia, semi-protected pages may not be edited by new or unregistered users.

Munroe's blog, entitled xkcd, is primarily a stick figure comic. The comic's tagline describes it as "A webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language".[10]

Munroe had originally used xkcd as an instant messaging screenname because he wanted a name without a meaning so he would not eventually grow tired of it.[11] He registered the domain name, but left it idle until he started posting his drawings, perhaps in September 2005.[5][third-party source needed] The webcomic quickly became very popular, garnering up to 70 million hits a month by October 2007.[12] Munroe has said, "I think the comic that's gotten me the most feedback is actually the one about the stoplights".[12][13]

Munroe now supports himself by the sale of xkcd-related merchandise, primarily thousands of t-shirts a month.[2][11] He licenses his xkcd creations under the Creative Commons attribution-noncommercial 2.5, stating that it is not just about the free culture movement, but that it also makes good business sense.[11]

In 2010, he published a collection of the comics.[14] He has also toured the lecture circuit, giving speeches at places such as Google's Googleplex in Mountain View, California.[15]

The popularity of the strip among science fiction fans resulted in Munroe being nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Fan Artist in 2011 and again in 2012.[16] In 2014, he won the Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story for the xkcd strip "Time".[17]

Other projects[edit]

Various doses of radioactivity in sieverts, ranging from negligible to lethal

Munroe is the creator of the now defunct websites "The Funniest",[18] "The Cutest",[19] and "The Fairest",[20] each of which presents users with two options and asks them to choose one over the other.[citation needed]

In January 2008, Munroe developed an open-source chat moderation script named "Robot9000". Originally developed to moderate one of Munroe's xkcd-related IRC channels, the software's algorithm attempts to prevent repetition in IRC channels by temporarily muting users who send messages that are identical to a message that has been sent to the channel before. If users continue to send unoriginal messages, Robot9000 mutes the user for a longer period, quadrupling for each unoriginal message the user sends to the channel.[21][third-party source needed] Shortly after Munroe's blog post about the script went live, 4chan administrator Christopher Poole adapted the script to moderate the site's experimental /r9k/ board.[22] Twitch offers Robot9000 ("r9k mode") as an optional feature for broadcasters and moderators to use in their channels' chat boxes.[23]

In October 2008, The New Yorker magazine online published an interview and "Cartoon Off" between Munroe and Farley Katz, in which each cartoonist drew a series of four humorous cartoons.[24]

Munroe has a blog entitled What If?, where he has answered questions sent in by fans of his comics. These questions are usually absurd and related to math or physics, and he explains them using both his knowledge and various academic sources.[citation needed] In 2014, he published a collection of some of the responses, as well as a few new ones and some rejected questions, in a book entitled What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions.[14] Starting in November 2019, Munroe began writing a monthly column in the New York Times titled Good Question, answering user submitted questions in the same style as What If.[25]

In response to concerns about the radioactivity released by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011, and to remedy what he described as "confusing" reporting on radiation levels in the media, Munroe created a radiation chart of comparative radiation exposure levels.[26] The chart was rapidly adopted by print and online journalists in several countries,[citation needed] including being linked to by online writers for The Guardian,[27] and The New York Times.[28] As a result of requests for permission to reprint the chart and to translate it into Japanese, Munroe placed it in the public domain, but requested that his non-expert status should be clearly stated in any reprinting.[29]

Munroe published an xkcd-style comic on scientific publishing and open access in Science in October 2013.[30]

Munroe's book Thing Explainer, announced in May 2015 and published late that year, explains concepts using only the 1,000 most common English words.[14][31][32] The book's publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, saw these illustrations as potentially useful for textbooks, and announced in March 2016 that the next editions of their high school-level chemistry, biology, and physics textbooks will include selected drawings and accompanying text from Thing Explainer.[33][34]

In February 2019, Munroe announced his upcoming book How To, which was released in September of that year.[35][4]


In September 2013, Munroe announced that a group of xkcd readers had submitted his name as a candidate for the renaming of asteroid (4942) 1987 DU6 to 4942 Munroe. The name was accepted by the International Astronomical Union.[36][37]

Personal life[edit]

As of May 2008, Munroe lived in Somerville, Massachusetts.[2]

In October 2010, Munroe's fiancée was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer; there had been no prior family history.[38][39] The emotional effect of her illness was referenced in the comic panel "Emotion", published 18 months later in April 2012.[40] In September 2011, he announced that they had married.[41] In December 2017, Munroe summarized the time since his wife's cancer diagnosis in a comic entitled "Seven Years".[42] He revisited the subject in November 2020 in a comic entitled "Ten Years".[43]

His hobbies and interests include kite photography, in which cameras are attached to kites and photographs are then taken of the ground or buildings.[44]


Publications by Munroe[edit]

  • xkcd: volume 0. Breadpig. 2009. ISBN 9780615314464.
  • What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions. London: John Murray. 2014. ISBN 9781848549579.
  • Thing Explainer. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2015. ISBN 9780544668256.
  • How To: Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-World Problems. John Murray. 2019. ISBN 9780525537090.

Publications with contributions by Munroe[edit]


  1. ^ Chamberlin, Alan. "JPL Small-Body Database Browser". JPL Solar System Dynamics. Retrieved August 24, 2020. Randall Munroe (b. 1984) is a former NASA roboticist and the author of xkcd, a popular webcomic various themes including science, mathematics technology and computer science.
  2. ^ a b c d Cohen, Noam (May 26, 2008). "This Is Funny Only if You Know Unix". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved September 25, 2008.
  3. ^ a b Tupponce, Joan (November 24, 2009). "A Cartoonist's Mind". Richmond Magazine. Retrieved January 28, 2020.
  4. ^ a b Martinelli, Marissa (September 6, 2019). "Xkcd Creator Randall Munroe on the Joys of Overthinking Everything". Slate. Retrieved September 11, 2019.
  5. ^ a b c Munroe, Randall (December 11, 2007). Authors@Google: Randall Munroe (@Google Talks Adobe Flash video). Mountain View, California: Google. Event occurs at 24:13, 48:05, other timepoints. Retrieved September 25, 2008. ...Calvin and Hobbes was the first comic that I discovered. / ... I'm pretty sure I started [posting drawings] in September 2005
  6. ^ Munroe, Randall. "About". xkcd. Retrieved September 26, 2008.[third-party source needed]
  7. ^ a b Munroe, Randall (October 6, 2006). "Many news [sic] things, some overdue". xkcd: The blag of the webcomic. WordPress. Job. Archived from the original on August 24, 2013. Retrieved January 1, 2014. My about page mentions that I work for NASA — I'm technically a contractor working repeated contracts for them. However, they recently ran out of money to rehire me for another contract, so I'm done there for now.[third-party source needed]
  8. ^ a b Lineberry, Denise (2012). "Robots or Webcomics? That was the Question". NASA.
  9. ^ Munroe, Randall. "Wikipedian Protester". xkcd.com.
  10. ^ Munroe, Randall. "xkcd". xkcd. Retrieved February 5, 2020.
  11. ^ a b c Fernandez, Rebecca (October 12, 2006). "xkcd: A comic strip for the computer geek". Red Hat Magazine. Raleigh, North Carolina: Red Hat. Archived from the original on March 6, 2007. Retrieved September 25, 2008.
  12. ^ a b So, Adrienne (November 13, 2007). "Real Geek Heart Beats in Xkcd's Stick Figures". Wired. San Francisco: Condé Nast Publications. ISSN 1059-1028. Retrieved September 25, 2008.
  13. ^ Randall Munroe (w, a). "Long Light" xkcd (June 15, 2007), retrieved on April 18, 2020
  14. ^ a b c Alter, Alexandra (November 23, 2015). "Randall Munroe Explains It All for Us". The New York Times.
  15. ^ Spertus, Ellen (December 21, 2007). "Randall Munroe's visit to Google (xkcd)". Beyond Satire. Archived from the original on October 5, 2008. Retrieved September 25, 2008.
  16. ^ Hugo Staff. "Hugo Awards 2012 nomination". Archived from the original on April 9, 2012. Retrieved April 7, 2012.
  17. ^ Hugo Staff. "Hugo Awards 2014 nomination". Retrieved April 20, 2014.
  18. ^ Munroe, Randall. "The Funniest". Archived from the original on December 5, 2006.[full citation needed]
  19. ^ Munroe, Randall. "The Cutest". Archived from the original on May 28, 2010.[full citation needed]
  20. ^ Munroe, Randall. "The Fairest".[full citation needed]
  21. ^ Munroe, Randall. "ROBOT9000 and #xkcd-signal: Attacking Noise in Chat". blog.xkcd.com.[full citation needed][third-party source needed]
  22. ^ Petersen, Kierran (October 2, 2015). "A short history of /r9k/ — the 4chan message board some believe may be connected to the Oregon shooting". Public Radio International. Retrieved May 18, 2018. Surprisingly enough, however, the /r9k/ board, otherwise known as ROBOT9001, was originally conceived as a way to increase the quality of messages on the wildly popular webcomic xkcd. It used a type of auto-moderation that prevented people from posting the same comment multiple times. [...] 4chan eventually moved the idea and software behind ROBOT9000 on to its site. They just added a one.
  23. ^ Twitch Staff. "Chat Commands § Basic Commands for Broadcasters & All Moderators". Twitch.tv.[full citation needed]
  24. ^ Katz, Farley (October 15, 2008). "Cartoon-Off: XKCD". The New Yorker. Archived from the original on April 1, 2015.
  25. ^ "Good Question". New York Times. Retrieved June 18, 2020.
  26. ^ "Radiation dosage chart". xkcd.com. Retrieved January 28, 2020.
  27. ^ Monbiot, George (March 21, 2011). "Why Fukushima made me stop worrying and love nuclear power". The Guardian. London. Retrieved March 29, 2011.
  28. ^ Revkin, Andrew (March 23, 2011). "The 'Dread to Risk' Ratio on Radiation and other Discontents". Dot Earth blog. The New York Times. Retrieved March 29, 2011.
  29. ^ Munroe, Randall. "Radiation Chart". www.xkcd.com. Retrieved March 29, 2011.
  30. ^ Munroe, Randall (October 4, 2013). "The Rise of Open Access". Science. 342 (6154): 58–59. doi:10.1126/science.342.6154.58. PMID 24092724. Retrieved August 26, 2014.
  31. ^ Kastrenakes, Jacob (May 13, 2015). "XKCD has a new book about explaining complicated subjects in simple ways". The Verge. Retrieved May 14, 2015.
  32. ^ Alderman, Naomi (December 17, 2015). "Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words by Randall Munroe – funny, precise and beautifully designed". The Guardian.
  33. ^ Chang, Kenneth (March 22, 2016). "Randall Munroe, XKCD Creator, Goes Back to High School". New York Times. Retrieved March 22, 2016.
  34. ^ Jao, Charlene (March 23, 2016). "XKCD Creator Randall Munroe Making Content For High School Textbooks". The Mary Sue.
  35. ^ Munroe, Randall. "how to". xkcd. Retrieved February 6, 2019.
  36. ^ "4942 Munroe (1987 DU6)". Jet Propulsion Laboratory. NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology. July 29, 2013. Retrieved June 11, 2013.
  37. ^ Munroe, Randall (September 30, 2013). "Asteroid 4942 Munroe". xkcd | The blag of the webcomic. Retrieved June 11, 2013.
  38. ^ Munroe, Randall. "November - 2010 - xkcd". blog.xkcd.com. Retrieved June 3, 2018.
  39. ^ Munroe, Randall (June 30, 2011). "Family Illness". Retrieved June 3, 2018.
  40. ^ Munroe, Randall. "xkcd: Emotion". xkcd.com. Retrieved June 3, 2018.
  41. ^ Munroe, Randall (September 12, 2011). "<3". Blog. XKCD.
  42. ^ Munroe, Randall (December 13, 2017). "Seven Years". Webcomic. XKCD.
  43. ^ Munroe, Randall (November 16, 2020). "Ten Years". Webcomic. XKCD.
  44. ^ Kuchera, Ben (July 2, 2007). "The joys of kite photography". Ars Technica.

External links[edit]