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What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to…

What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions (original 2014; edition 2014)

by Randall Munroe (Author)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
3,4951362,417 (4.2)1 / 71
"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. "--… (more)
Title:What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions
Authors:Randall Munroe (Author)
Info:Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (2014), Edition: First Edition, 320 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:physics, humor, comics, math

Work details

What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe (2014)

  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 (133)  German (1)  Hungarian (1)  French (1)  All languages (136)
Showing 1-5 of 133 (next | show all)
Somehow I’ve expected it to be better. I liked many things but I'm still a bit disappointed.

The main problem is probably that most of the questions (or more like the answers to them) concerned astrophysics and generally advanced physics. These are definitely areas of knowledge that interest me least. Problems in probability or biology were much more interesting to me.

Unfortunately, there were a lot of questions about astrophysics and they all seemed quite similar to me. Therefore, the whole book seems a bit monotonous to me. It could use a greater variety of questions - from biology, chemistry, advanced mathematics, maybe even history (questions like what would happen if it happened otherwise). Maybe some questions closer to the humanities or social sciences. But the author sticks to everything that can be measured and counted quite precisely.

I'm also a bit disappointed with the questions themselves. I expected them to be really crazy. Just look at the cover - a dinosaur thrown into what looks like a black hole in the desert from which some tentacles stick out. It promises to be great! And the subtitle "Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions". Well, these questions are not that weird or absurd. At least for a layman. Or maybe I just don't think about shooting a neutron bomb to Earth on a daily basis. I expected exactly what in the title, bizarre questions that will be of interest to me and to which I will get a professional answer. And that's why I'm a little disappointed.

After some time, all the questions and answers merged into one and became a little boring. I even started skipping paragraphs in after the next astrophysics question.

Also, I have the impression that the questions in the joke sections did not differ much from those to which the author was looking for answers. Maybe except that they were more interesting, sometimes macabre but usually more interesting. It is a pity that the author did not try to answer even briefly on them.

This is not a bad book but more intended for people who are interested in physics. It also seems to me that sometimes I simply lacked a lot of knowledge to fully understand the answer to a question. I have already read similar books and some of them were more interesting. I'm afraid I didn't get as much knowledge from this as I did from them. The questions were too uninteresting and the answers too complicated.
( )
  Sarielle | Jan 15, 2020 |
This is the perfect, and rare, combination of interesting, educational and fun. Even for someone who avoided physics and advanced math in school, I thoroughly enjoyed this. ( )
  obtusata | Jan 9, 2020 |
L'intérieur de ce livre comporte du texte mais aussi des dessins. Il traite de questions de première importance, notamment si vous pouvez ou non sauter d'un avion en vol muni d'un simple ballon d'hélium et survivre, et s'il est possible d'échapper à une temp$ete supersonique en se réfugiant en Filande .
  ACParakou | Dec 6, 2019 |
Fun book that tries to answer those crazy questions that come to you late at night but don't have the ability to research it enough to answer. Funny and smart, a good read if you have that quirky sense of humor. ( )
  nmorse | Dec 3, 2019 |
This is a fun book to read and you can even learn something while reading it--if you can remember all the details of the answers. I could not comprehend many of the explanations because I'm not a mathematician, but the humor was understandable throughout. Some of the questions were just dumb, but Munroe answered them anyway (or tried to). ( )
  terran | Nov 3, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 133 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Munroe, Randallprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
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
Wheaton, WilNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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.
First words
I was born in the United States, which means that as a child, I learned to think in feet, pounds, (US) gallons, and degrees Fahrenheit.

Preface to the UK edition : a note on units in the United Kingdom.
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.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
Haiku summary
Science is a tool
That can be used to answer
folks' freaky questions.

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