While I think Randall Munroe takes things, or, more precisely, thing explaining, too far when he “un-jargons” words such as smartphone (“hand computer”), helicopter (“plane with turning wings”), and microwave (“food-heating radio box”) I do appreciate his book’s agenda: to provide concise rundowns of the incredible stuff we regularly use and encounter in terms that won’t make us sorry we asked.
Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words offers up painless, common-word answers to questions about how things work, where they came from, and what would happen if we turned them over, opened them up, or pressed this button. Each entry includes a line drawing of the thing at hand and 1,000 easily digested words about its origin, composition, and functionality. In addition to the aforementioned gadgets, Thing Explainer covers:
- 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)
- Boxes that make clothes smell better (washers and dryers)
- The bags of stuff inside you (cells)
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