Randall Munroe, the mind behind popular webcomic Xkcd, has a new feather to add to his already pretty feathery hat – a partnership with publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt that will see Munroe’s comics cropping up in high school textbooks throughout the US.
An ex-NASA roboticist, Munroe has been well-known on the internet for some time now, thanks to his wildly successful series, Xkcd, which boasts the tagline, ‘A webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language’.
Through Xkcd, Munroe has sought to make people laugh, but also to teach them a bit about STEM, where possible.
In 2014, he ventured out of the digital world and into a wholly different one: publishing.
Munroe has now released two books through Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. The first, What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions was a continuation of Xkcd spin-off blog What If?, which sought to answer readers’ mad-cap questions scientifically.
It was the second book, though, which led to – even inspired – the high-school textbook development.
Thing Explainer, released in 2015, followed on from Up Goer Five, a comic posted in November 2012. Up Goer Five” explained rocket science using only the 1,000 (or ten hundred) words most commonly used in the English language.
The textbooks – available from this summer – will follow this model, pairing Munroe’s familiar stick figures with simple explanations of complex scientific ideas.
While the partnership covers physics, biology and chemistry books, Munroe doesn’t just post about science. Sometimes – particularly in the early days of the series – he focuses on relationships. Other times, he’s just trying to make people laugh:
But when he has STEM on his mind, sometimes it can be quite the thing to behold. The problem here is in whittling down the over 1,600 (almost always) stellar comics to an even more stellar few.
Here are just a few of the great Xkcd comics that educate and entertain.
They show you why science shouldn’t be your only study option:And how it may not be as glamorous as TV makes you think:
But that, sometimes, scientific breakthroughs do happen:
And why we have to recognise the diversity in science:
How different the Marvel universe could have been:
The weirdness of being proud about not learning math:
New memory devices:
How to convert to metric, in real terms:The differences between Celsius and Fahrenheit:
The depth of our oceans and lakes:
How close space actually is:
But also the magnitude of space, with math:And how long it takes for pop culture to traverse the universe: Why conspiracy theorists are overthinking it:
The timing of astronomical occurrences:
The possibility of undiscovered planets lurking in our solar system:And just how mean we are to the robots that are out there:
All comics via xkcd.com.
Main image via Shutterstock
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