Finding Humor in Physics

Sep 9, 2019

Credit Linus Mimietz / unsplash

We all use physics every day. Every time we pick something up, throw a ball, charge our cell phones, or drive a car, physics is involved. But most of us never choose to ignore how those things actually work.

A new book aims to get us thinking about exactly that, but with a humorous twist. Randall Munroe is the author of the web comic XKCD and his new book is "How To: Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-World Problems."

In his book Munroe compiles what he calls, “a book of bad ideas.” In one chapter, he looks at “How to Be On Time” and instead of giving advice to leave later, or prepare ahead of time, he suggests changing the legal definition of time.

“There’s nothing about the world that says it has to be Saturday right now, so we could all change it,” Muroe said. “Twice a year we all do change our clocks anyway."

Munroe approaches other topics with humor. In a chapter about accuracy he got Serena Williams to try to knock a drone out of the air with her tennis serve. She was able to on the third try. “A tennis ball will absolutely knock out one of those wedding photography drones,” he said.

And when Munroe spoke with test pilot and astronaut Chris Hadfield, he asked him what he would do if he got picked up by the mythical bird, roc. Chris spoke about drag and taking the bird down like he would an angry hang-glider.

Absurd questions are worthwhile in Munroe’s eyes. You learn a lot by trying to figure out why ideas are bad, and when you’re doing that it might help you come up with a solution.