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What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to…
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What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions (2014)

by Randall Munroe

Other authors: Patrick Barry (Cover designer)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
2,282922,796 (4.21)1 / 54
  1. 10
    13 Things That Don't Make Sense: The Most Baffling Scientific Mysteries of Our Time by Michael Brooks (Othemts)
  2. 01
    Physics of the Impossible: A Scientific Exploration into the World of Phasers, Force Fields, Teleportation, and Time Travel by Michio Kaku (CGlanovsky)
    CGlanovsky: Rigorous scientific descriptions of ridiculous things
  3. 01
    Au fond du labo à gauche: De la vraie science pour rire by Edouard Launet (dClauzel)
    dClauzel: Discussions amusantes sur la science. Des questions hypothétiques, des expérimentations qui n’auraient jamais eu lieu d’être, et surtout l’envie de partager.
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English (89)  German (1)  Hungarian (1)  French (1)  All (92)
Showing 1-5 of 89 (next | show all)
amazingly entertaining scientific answers (from a nasa scientist) to random implausible questions. ( )
  KenMcLain | Jul 18, 2017 |
I don't think that I've laughed out loud at a book that wasn't a straight up comedy memoir in a long time. Randall Munroe is the cartoonist behind xkcd. In this book, he takes on some pretty awesome questions that are utterly ridiculous (but still fun to think about) and sorts out the science. The tone kind of reminded me of my favorite fiction book this year, "The Martian." There are a lot of calculations that I don't fully understand, but he explains them well and with loads of humor.

Each response include some hilarious footnotes (seriously, there's one that's a somewhat obscure reference to the TV show Friends) and lots of his great cartoons. A sample question (and one of my favorites, because it involves maps) is 'which US state is actually flown over the most?' To answer this, Mr. Munroe looked at 10,000 flights and determined a state was flown over if a flight did not take off or land in the state, but crossed the state's airspace. He also, for a little extra fun, calculated which airport is responsible for the most flights that cross that state. The answer to the question, by the way, is probably not what you'd guess it is.

The editing of this book is superb; some of the best comments appear as a surprise turn after flipping the page. And the questions are mostly really interesting; only a couple responses did I feel like skimming. Mr. Munroe also offers up examples of some of the more disturbing questions he's received. He doesn't answer these, but provides sometimes hilarious cartoon responses to them.

I read this book over a couple of days while travelling and think it's mostly perfect as a travelling book. Each question only takes up three-five pages (and probably 20% of that is cartoon), so you can pick it up for ten minutes at a time. Really the only drawback for reading a physical version (as opposed to the ebook) is that it is currently in hardback and a slightly odd size - the height seems to match most hardcovers, but it is a bit wider. If you travel with a partner, I suggest bringing it as once you finish it your partner can pick it up and will likely enjoy it. ( )
  ASKelmore | Jul 9, 2017 |
OK so it is a bit geeky but actually this book is full of gems!

The depth of science knowledge displayed in this book is outstanding and the way links are made is both clever and slightly frightening. ( )
  pluckedhighbrow | Jun 26, 2017 |
Not a read-in-one-sitting kind of book. Glossed over a lot of the math, but the analogies were fun. ( )
  mrsrobin | Jun 24, 2017 |
The man behind the popular webcomic xkcd started a side project where he uses science and math to answer unusual and often quite obscure questions. This is a collection of some of the better questions from the site and also lots of new material. Each question is taken at face value, and if the answer is unsatisfying, they go Mythbusters and add more layers of power/absurdity until the whole thing is delightfully ridiculous - and yet somehow, still scientifically reasonable. It's a fun read and a different way of thinking about the world.

A note on the audio: Wil Wheaton is good, but I got the impression there were some cartoons and visual gags I missed. ( )
  melydia | Jun 23, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 89 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (13 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Randall Munroeprimary authorall editionscalculated
Barry, PatrickCover designersecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gleason, ChristinaDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kankaanpää, JaakkoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Setterborg, GabrielTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Svenn, GöstaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Svenn, Helena SjöstrandTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
DISCLAIMER
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.
Dedication
First words
Introduction
This book is a collection of answers to hypothetical questions.
Q. What would happen if the Earth and all terrestrial objects suddenly stopped spinning, but the atmosphere retained its velocity?

A. Nearly everyone would die. Then things would get interesting.
Quotations
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Science is a tool
That can be used to answer
folks' freaky questions.
(lturpin42)

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0544272994, Hardcover)

From the creator of the wildly popular webcomic xkcd, hilarious and informative answers to important questions you probably never thought to ask.

Millions of people visit xkcd.com each week to read Randall Munroe’s iconic webcomic. His stick-figure drawings about science, technology, language, and love have a large and passionate following.

Fans of xkcd ask Munroe a lot of strange questions. What if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90 percent the speed of light? How fast can you hit a speed bump while driving and live? If there was a robot apocalypse, how long would humanity last?

In pursuit of answers, Munroe runs computer simulations, pores over stacks of declassified military research memos, solves differential equations, and consults with nuclear reactor operators. His responses are masterpieces of clarity and hilarity, complemented by signature xkcd comics. They often predict the complete annihilation of humankind, or at least a really big explosion.

The book features new and never-before-answered questions, along with updated and expanded versions of the most popular answers from the xkcd website. What If? will be required reading for xkcd fans and anyone who loves to ponder the hypothetical.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:30 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"Millions of people visit xkcd.com each week to read Randall Munroe's iconic webcomic. His stick-figure drawings about science, technology, language, and love have a large and passionate following. Fans of xkcd ask Munroe a lot of strange questions. Whatif you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90 percent the speed of light? How fast can you hit a speed bump while driving and live? If there was a robot apocalypse, how long would humanity last? In pursuit of answers, Munroe runs computer simulations, pores over stacks of declassified military research memos, solves differential equations, and consults with nuclear reactor operators. His responses are masterpieces of clarity and hilarity, complemented by signature xkcd comics. They often predict the complete annihilation of humankind, or at least a really big explosion. The book features new and never-before-answered questions, along with updated and expanded versions of the most popular answers from the xkcd website. What If? will be required reading forxkcd fans and anyone who loves to ponder the hypothetical. "--… (more)

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