Explaining scientific concepts to people is tricky. On the one hand, people do clearly have a great deal of curiosity when it comes to astronomy and the human body and a million other subjects. On the other hand, these subjects are complicated — sometimes really complicated — and newcomers to them who want to learn more are often stymied when they hit a brick wall of complex terminology.
Simplifying complex subjects, then, is a really important — and rare — skill for anyone hoping to communicate science to a broad audience. In his upcoming book Thing Explainer, XKCD creator Randall Munroe, who has already written a book called What If covering crazy hypotheticals (“How fast can you hit a speed bump while driving and live? If there was a robot apocalypse, how long would humanity last?”), challenges himself to the science-explaining equivalent of an ultramarathon: explaining how complicated things work using only the thousand most common words in the English language.
The book, which is out in November, is inspired by Munroe’s “Up Goer Five” XKCD comic, and will “explain everything from ballpoint pens to the solar system,” as the publicity language puts it, using blueprints drawn by Munroe. Here’s Munroe’s take on the NASA’s Curiosity Rover — er, “Space car for the red world” (click here to open a bigger version in a new tab):