A thing you could buy someone for Xmas: Thing Explainer by Randall Monroe

First up in our new series on things you could buy someone for Xmas is ‘Thing Explainer’, a new book from internet comic and former NASA roboticist Randall Munroe.

Randall Munroe was a physicist tha built robots for NASA before quitting to draw comics and post them on the internet under the title xkcd.

Munroe’s comics can be small:

huge (download for detail):



just plain funny:

or just plain sad:


And now he’s made a book, explaining all manner of highly technical things in the plainest of English: the International Space Station is a ‘shared space house’; washing machines are ‘boxes that make clothes smell better’. Sometimes this is taken to an illogical extreme: a helicopter is a ‘sky boat with turning wings’; a lock is a ‘shape checker'. But a tree is still a ‘tree’.

Munroe’s explanation of things is funny but dispassionate. It’s like having the world explained to you by an alien with a PhD and a sly sense of humour.

Here he is on the Mars Rover Explorer:


and a smartphone:

You get the idea.

Anyway, doesn't think sound (and look) like a great Xmas present? We're thinking anyone from a precocious nine year old to someone Bill Gate's age and above will love it.

And hey, if they don't, send it to us and we'll find a good home for it.

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