Book of the day
Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words
(UK: John Murray, 2015; USA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015)
It’s good to know what the parts of a thing are called, but it’s much more interesting to know what they do. Richard Feynman once said that if you can’t explain something to a first-year student, you don’t really get it. In Thing Explainer, Randall Munroe takes a quantum leap past this: he explains things using only drawings and a vocabulary of just our 1,000 (or the ten hundred) most common words.
Many of the things we use every day – like our food-heating radio boxes (‘microwaves’), our very tall roads (‘bridges’), and our computer rooms (‘datacentres’) – are strange to us. So are the other worlds around our sun (the solar system), the big flat rocks we live on (tectonic plates), and even the stuff inside us (cells). Where do these things come from? How do they work? What do they look like if you open them up? And what would happen if we heated them up, cooled them down, pointed them in a different direction, or pressed this button?
In Thing Explainer, Munroe gives us the answers to these questions and many, many more. Funny, interesting, and always understandable, this book is for anyone — age 5 to 105 — who has ever wondered how things work, and why.
Available in the UK via ‘My Local Bookshop‘ search engine, or via Amazon (Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words)
Available in the USA via Amazon (Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words)
Facts of the day
1556 The Shaanxi Earthquake – the deadliest on record – kills 830,000 in Shensi Province, China
In Sicily, Lasagna is served on New Year’s Day, because any other noodle served is said to bring bad luck.
Born in Bath in 1945, Jacqueline Wilson was already writing stories by the time she was 7 years old. She was called ‘Jackie Daydream’ at school, a nickname she later used for her autobiography.
1761 Friedrich von Matthison (Germany)
1762 Christian August Vulpius (Germany)
1783 Stendhal (France)
1869 Herbert Croly (USA)
1878 Oton Župančič (Slovenia)
1891 Antonio Gramsci (Italy)
1898 Freda Utley (UK)
1899 Joseph Nathan Kane (USA)
1905 Konstanty Ildefons Gałczyński (Poland)
1908 Hubert Nicholson (UK)
1923 Walter M Miller Jr (USA)
1930 Derek Walcott (St Lucia)
1934 Pierre Bourgault (Canada)
1936 Jerry Kramer (USA)
1962 Elvira Lindo (Spain)
Jokes of the day
‘It is so cold outside I saw a politician with his hands in his own pockets.’
Cartoon: Charles Schultz, Snoopy: literary ace, Peanuts