What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe

What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions

Randall Munroe left NASA in 2005 to start up his hugely popular site XKCD 'a web comic of romance, sarcasm, math and language' which offers a witty take on the world of science and geeks. It now has 600,000 to a million page hits daily. Every now and then, Munroe would get emails asking him to arbitrate a science debate. 'My friend and I were arguing about what would happe...

Title:What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions
Author:
Rating:
ISBN:0544272994
Edition Language:English
Format Type:Hardcover
Number of Pages:303 pages

What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions Reviews

  • Diane
    Aug 29, 2014

    This book opens with the best disclaimer I have ever seen:

    "Do not try any of this at home. The author of this book is an Internet cartoonist, not a health or safety expert. He likes it when things catch fire or explode, which means he does not have your best interests in mind. The publisher and the author disclaim responsibility for any adverse effects resulting, directly or indirectly, from information contained in this book."

    That disclaimer really sets the tone for this fun book about science:

    This book opens with the best disclaimer I have ever seen:

    "Do not try any of this at home. The author of this book is an Internet cartoonist, not a health or safety expert. He likes it when things catch fire or explode, which means he does not have your best interests in mind. The publisher and the author disclaim responsibility for any adverse effects resulting, directly or indirectly, from information contained in this book."

    That disclaimer really sets the tone for this fun book about science:

    Randall Munroe used to work at NASA, and now he creates the webcomic XKCD (which sounds less stressful than the NASA gig). On his website, he takes "absurd hypothetical questions" from readers and tries to answer some of them. Here are some of my favorite questions in this book:

    If you are interested to know any of the answers to those questions, this book is for you! What made this so much fun, aside from the ridiculous questions, is Munroe's sense of humor. Several times I laughed out loud at his drawings and his answers, which is not something that usually happens when I'm reading about science. Oh, and be sure to read his footnotes, which have even more jokes.

    I think this book would be a great gift for kids who love to ask crazy questions about how the world works. I think I would have loved it when I was 10.

    *I need to thank my GR friend Brendon for pointing out this marvelous book, because I had never heard of the author before. It's the miracle of Goodreads!

  • Steve Alexander
    Sep 01, 2014

    This is one of the most entertaining books I have ever read. And I have read over 10 books.

  • Manny
    Sep 15, 2014

    A: Actually, less than you'd think.

    First, a little background about this book. If you're a geek, it's unputdownable, a word that, if you think carefully, means "cannot be put down". (You may not be aware of this fact, since the word is nearly always misused). So the geek who receives it is going to carry on reading through breakfast, through lunch, while he's supposed to be working, and on through dinner,

    A: Actually, less than you'd think.

    First, a little background about this book. If you're a geek, it's unputdownable, a word that, if you think carefully, means "cannot be put down". (You may not be aware of this fact, since the word is nearly always misused). So the geek who receives it is going to carry on reading through breakfast, through lunch, while he's supposed to be working, and on through dinner, ignoring the non-geek guests who have come to visit. He'll interrupt conversations every now and then to ask things like "Could you build a bridge across the Atlantic out of Lego bricks?" or "How close would you need to be to a supernova to be killed by the neutrino flux?". He'll finish just as the last guest leaves.

    There is a common myth, most likely spread by geeks, that what they do is somehow pretty important to Western civilization. If you're easily impressed by this kind of propaganda, you might expect that markets will crash as geek traders neglect their buy signals, nuclear experiments will explode as geek scientists look away from their control panels, and terrorists will strike with impunity as geek intelligence analysts fail to turn up for work. All that sounds pretty bad.

    But let's stop and consider for a moment. Is any of the above geek behavior novel or unpredictable? Hardly. Geeks are always doing this kind of thing, and society has learned to work around them. Important as they may be

    , there's always some dependable non-geek person ready to step in just in case the geek in question has stayed up all night playing Halo or watching a Star Wars marathon. The non-geek will cover for them until the geek has got over their fifteen hour internet speed-chess session and is ready to do whatever it is they're actually being paid to do.

    So delivering a copy of

    to every geek in the world will only really have two important effects. It will make a great many geeks very happy, and (assuming of course that the copies are paid for) it will turn Randall Munroe into a billionaire.

    And who could possibly have anything against that?

  • Valerie
    Oct 11, 2014

    My evil plan of reading this book in small doses aloud to my students during math class has worked. Several of them have bought their own copies, and they are, I believe, planning to use their math skills for good, and not for world domination.

  • Patrick
    Nov 15, 2014

    I've been a reader of XKCD for ages. Not just a reader, a fan. A big goey, geeky fan.

    So much of a fan that when I heard about this book, I went so far as to abuse my power as an author to get an Advance Reading Copy of the book, so that I could enjoy its deliciousness sooner. And... y'know... taunt people on the internet.

    And it worked. I got an early copy. And I treasured it. I petted it. It was precious to me. Precious.

    Then life got in the way. Conventions. Promotion for my own book launch.

    I've been a reader of XKCD for ages. Not just a reader, a fan. A big goey, geeky fan.

    So much of a fan that when I heard about this book, I went so far as to abuse my power as an author to get an Advance Reading Copy of the book, so that I could enjoy its deliciousness sooner. And... y'know... taunt people on the internet.

    And it worked. I got an early copy. And I treasured it. I petted it. It was precious to me. Precious.

    Then life got in the way. Conventions. Promotion for my own book launch. I had dad stuff to do. I had prep work for the yearly

    Then I had my book tour....

    Through all of this, I carried my precious ARC around, waiting for the time when I'd be able to spare the brainpower to read it. I even took it on tour with me. (Honestly, this book has more frequent flier miles than any three of you put together.)

    It wasn't until I got back home that I started it. I wanted something to read before I went to bed, and I picked What If because I was worried if I picked up another book I'd be reading half the night and it would screw up my already dysfunctional sleep schedule.

    Despite my best intentions, I read half the book that night. It cost me precious sleep I couldn't afford to lose. But I don't regret it. Not a bit.

    It's clever, but if you know anything about Randall Munroe, that won't come as a surprise to you. And it's funny, and witty (which are two different things, by the way.) But again to readers of XKCD this won't come as any sort of surprise.

    The surprise was how *easy* it was to read. There's some decent science in there, but it wasn't anywhere nearly as brain-taxing as I'd expected. Munroe does a brilliant job of explaining very complex concepts simply. That's a rare gift.

    The other surprise is how much it pulled me in. I expected to read the book in dribs and drabs over a couple weeks. Instead, I tore through it. That's not usually the case for me with non-fiction books.

    In brief, it's worth your time. Even if you haven't read his comic. Even if you haven't ever heard of Randall Munroe. Even if you're not into science. You should pick this up and read it. You'll be glad you did.

  • Lindsey Rey
    Jul 09, 2015

    I highly recommend taking the audiobook route for this one unless you absolutely love very technical science. Wil Wheaton's narration was excellent and he delivered Munroe's humor perfectly! I loved this so much I bought a hard copy for my coffee table.

  • Nandakishore Varma
    Nov 09, 2015

    An apple fell on Newton's head.

    "Why didn't this fall up instead of down?" Asked the scientist...

    ...And lo, the theory of gravitation was born.

    - Well, not really. The story is apocryphal in all probability, like George Washington and the cherry tree. But it does illustrate an important fact.

    Scientific enquiry starts with seemingly absurd questions.

    -----------------------------------

    Randall Munroe is a physics graduate who briefly worked for NASA: but his claim to fame is as the creator of the we

    An apple fell on Newton's head.

    "Why didn't this fall up instead of down?" Asked the scientist...

    ...And lo, the theory of gravitation was born.

    - Well, not really. The story is apocryphal in all probability, like George Washington and the cherry tree. But it does illustrate an important fact.

    Scientific enquiry starts with seemingly absurd questions.

    -----------------------------------

    Randall Munroe is a physics graduate who briefly worked for NASA: but his claim to fame is as the creator of the web comic

    , where stick figures make fun of serious philosophical questions and scientific theories. According to Wikipedia, his site gets 70 million hits per month. And reading this book, it's not hard to see why.

    Munroe reminds us that above all, science is fun.

    -----------------------------------

    xkcd has got an inbox where people can submit questions of any kind - and they do. The questions have to be seen to be believed. Randall Munroe takes all the questions seriously - and tries to provide "scientific" answers to each. This book is a collection of such questions and answers. The answers are sometimes tongue-in-cheek, but there is the spirit of serious scientific investigation (experiment - observation - interpretation) in each: accompanied by his signature stick figures and one-liners, they are a delight to read.

    Some sample questions:

    "What would happen if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90% the speed of light?"

    "How quickly would the oceans drain if a circular portal 10 meters in radius leading into space was created at the bottom of Challenger Deep, the deepest spot in the ocean? How would the Earth change as the water is being drained?"

    "Supposing you did Drain the Oceans, and dumped the water on top of the Curiosity rover, how would Mars change as the water accumulated?"

    "When (if ever) did the Sun finally set on the British Empire?"

    "If an asteroid was very small but supermassive, could you really live on it like the Little Prince?"

    "If you suddenly began rising steadily at one foot per second, how exactly would you die? Would you freeze or suffocate first? Or something else?"

    These are just a sample. There are many, many more.

    -----------------------------------

    If you love science, or just like asking seemingly idiotic questions just for the heck of it, or both (like me!) - this book is for you. Or you can just hop over to Munroe's site and read these - and many more - there. You can even submit an absurd question yourself.

    This book is pure bliss.

  • Felicia
    Dec 19, 2016

    AMAZING BOOK! I love love love it and frankly, there's no better book to read on the toilet. Off the toilet too, but I learned so much and the writing is so engaging and entertaining and just MARVELOUS. Of course in the style of xkcd, this and Atlas Obscura would be my go-to book gifts this year.


Top Books is in no way intended to support illegal activity. We uses Search API to find the overview of books over the internet, but we don't host any files. All document files are the property of their respective owners, please respect the publisher and the author for their copyrighted creations. If you find documents that should not be here please report them. Read our DMCA Policies and Disclaimer for more details.