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Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words Paperback – January 1, 2017
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It's difficult to express how bad this book is. The drawings look informative and they pull you in, but the associated text is infuriatingly difficult to decipher. For example (describing a feature in a cross section of the earth's surface): "This is white stuff, like what we put on food to make it better". JUST SAY SALT! EVERYONE KNOWS WHAT SALT IS!
"Fire Water" on the same picture is oil I guess? I don't know because it's unnecessarily cryptic and I don't care enough to decipher it from context clues.
Just say oil and maybe we'll all learn something.
(Describing volcanoes, I think) "HOT ROCK MOUNTAIN The rocks that get pushed into the Earth get hot and watery, and some of them come up through holes in the rock above them." WT*? Does watery mean melted into lava? Just say lava.
This book would be fun if you want to guess what the author is describing by using simple words like "MOVIE MAKER DEEP GOER" (maybe some kind of submarine?) but I find it exhausting and the least useful book for my kids.
I hope i can return it. Total waste of money and time.
I'm a teacher at a school for people who already know a lot, and who are very good at what they do. (I teach them about power for our lights and machines.) We use big words and special names all the time. But I sometimes ask my students to try explaining complicated stuff using only simple words, because when you do that, you find out whether you really understand it. It forces you to ask, what is the most important idea here? I wish more teachers did this.
Putting ideas into simple words can also help you recognize how different words carry meaning other than just telling you what something is. This is especially true for things that people often have strong feelings about, like the laws of the land, or our body parts for making new people, or machines for burning cities. Special words can quietly suggest if something is a good or a bad idea, or cover up bad feelings. Playing the game of using only simple words can help you see things more clearly for what they actually are, and say just what you mean. So, this book shows us a way to pay special attention to how our own thinking bag works. And I think that's really, really cool.
Enter Randall Munroe, famed “xkcd” webcomic author and an all around smart guy. In late 2012, he published a comic that described each of the systems in NASA’s Saturn V rocket with simple words. Described as “U.S. Space Team’s Up Goer Five,” the concept of using shorter, more common words to explain complicated concepts came to its full fruition in Thing Explainer. Using the thousand most common words, Munroe manages to humorously and thoroughly explain such “things” as the U.S. Constitution, The International Space Station, and the Large Hadron Collider (amongst many other common and complicated ideas).
While the concept is fun and this book could easily be used to help children understand these fascinating ideas, the thousand-word constraint is also its biggest weakness. Sure, I could deduce that “shafts” were usually “sticks” (or “hallways” if they were like mine shafts), and “fire water” often meant gasoline (or some other combustible fuel). However, I often found myself trying to figure out what the actual name of the item or part in question was because the “simple” name wasn’t self-explanatory. Also, it was sometimes a challenge to read all the small text, as it usually wasn’t arranged in a linear format, instead appearing in chunks around the illustrations to be close to the parts that were being described.
A unique concept to bring advanced technological knowledge to everyone, I give Thing Explainer 4.0 stars out of 5.
Finally, bear in mind, all that jazz above is from this adult's point of the view. My 13 year old, on the other hand, found it extremely funny and engaging and actually remarked that "This guy really knows how to explain things!" (No kidding!)
Final Score: Randall - Texan Hawk, 1-0.
Top international reviews
If you have an inquisitive child who asks questions about things from Black Holes to Human Cells or wonders which country has the most trees to where did the Dinosaurs go this is an essential addition to your home library..... also if you're a Science teacher please give out prizes like this.
The premise of this book is Randall Munroe - well-known for his nerdy comics at xkcd.com - using nothing more than his unique comic-style drawing abilities, scientific prowess, and the 1,000 most commonly-used words in the English language to explain - somethings very complicated - things. This leads to a sometimes confusing, often hilarious, and - for me - nostalgic look at the world.
The book itself is a lovely thing in hardback form: big enough for all the details of the drawings on each page to shine through.
I enjoyed it so much I bought a copy for my dad too. He loved it as well!
I've noticed in some of the reviews that some are complaining about the simplistic text. It does say clearly in the blurb for the book that he only uses the thousand most common words in the English language. It can't have been easy.
This is a great idea let down by the formatting, I feel a bit miffed that if was a pretty expensive kindle book that is of little use.
I'm fairly sure everyone knows what a bridge is - but here it's called a 'very tall road'.
A 'microwave' becomes a 'food-heating radio box'.
It becomes so contrived that it borders on the painful... fantastic illustrations spoilt by the text
A great book for all ages, although I think children would particularly enjoy it.
Definitely a book for the coffee table, or anywhere really. Love it.
In that way, it was a perfect present for my geeky spouse.
Check out the website: splasho.com/upgoer5 if you are interested :)