What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions
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 an enormous, dedicated following, as do his deeply researched answers to his fans’ strangest questions.
The queries he receives range from merely odd to downright diabolical:
• What if I took a swim in a spent-nuclear-fuel pool?
• Could you build a jetpack using downward-firing machine guns?
• What if a Richter 15 earthquake hit New York City?
• Are fire tornadoes possible?
His responses are masterpieces of clarity and wit, gleefully and accurately explaining everything from the relativistic effects of a baseball pitched at near the speed of light to the many horrible ways you could die while building a periodic table out of all the actual elements.
The book features new and never-before-answered questions, along with the most popular answers from the xkcd website. What If? is an informative feast for xkcd fans and anyone who loves to ponder the hypothetical.
Shortlisted for Goodreads Choice Awards: Non-Fiction 2014.
With this book and with XKCD, you're a kid with a chemistry set all over again. [Randall Munroe's] enthusiasm for all things scientific is infectious ... required reading for grown-ups, it's just fun to remember that science is really, really cool REGISTER Smart answers to silly questions: Randall Munroe reveals all GUARDIAN What If? maintains a delightfully free-wheeling tone throughout, especially when complicated calculations lead to whimsical results. Despite all the hard facts and gigantic numbers, it never feels like a textbook-and you don't have to be a rocket scientist to enjoy it ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY The best bathroom book you'll ever buy...Munroe takes inane, useless and often quite pointless questions asked by real humans (mostly sent to him through his website), and turns them into beautiful expositions on the impossible that illuminate the furthest reaches, almost to the limits, of the modern sciences .The first chapter, "Q. What would happen if the Earth and all terrestrial objects suddenly stopped spinning, but the atmosphere retained its velocity?" ends with the anthropomorphized moon worrying over the state of the Earth, and, with the gravity generated by its own rotation around the Earth, saving our dying planet. The physics are real; so is the emotional content... The answers are all illustrated with xkcd's trademark stick figures... and these are eminently approachable NEWSWEEK Brilliant ROLLING STONE What If? includes old favorites, new inquiries and the mix of expert research and accessible wit that has made Munroe a favorite among both geeks and laymen TIME Munroe's brilliant What-If? column-which features scientifically rigorous, utterly absurd answers to ridiculous hypotheticals-has been on the bestseller lists since it was announced in March. Today, it hits shelves and: It. Is. A. Triumph BOINGBOING [What If?] has solved my annual birthday-present and holiday-gift dilemmas for a large group of people ... What makes Munroe's work so fantastic is a combination of two elements: his commitment to trying to answer even the weirdest question with solid science, and his undeniable sense of humour. So, here's a "What If?" from me: If everyone on the planet simultaneously bought a copy of this book, stopped what they were doing and read it cover to cover, would modern civilization and our global economy collapse? It's worth trying the experiment. HUFFINGTON POST For the record, I'm loving XKCD's What If -- 'Dear Abby for mad scientists' NEIL GAIMAN Munroe has hit on a wonderful form of science and engineering communication that can do so much-extolling the value of analytical thinking, examining data, and doing back-of-the-envelope calculations-while entertaining readers at the same time ... an incredibly fun book with quirky, hand-drawn pictures AMERICAN SCIENTIST Thoughtful, scientific, and highly entertaining PARADE If you're the kind of person whose brain whizzes with questions, Munroe's book may calm the noise. He's done all the hard work for you SHORTLIST XKCD is nerd royalty, the alpha dork, there's no geek more widely cited and loved BEN GOLDACRE, author of BAD SCIENCE It's totally brilliant and everyone who matters already knows that! TIM HARFORD, THE UNDERCOVER ECONOMIST Education should aim to teach people to reason confidently about problems that they have never come across before. This book is a great deal of fun, and a masterclass in such reasoning. Like all the best lessons, you only realise you've learnt something once you've finished it The Economist Dangerously absorbing ... if you have ever been gripped by an insatiable, preposterous intellectual curiosity (regardless of actual scientific knowledge), I could not think of a better book to keep you from doing that essay for an extra hour or two Varsity The reader is left constantly subject to outbursts of laughter, lin-gering doubts concerning the sanity of the human race, and an ever-growing fascination with the way our world and the universe works ... Though science geeks will be the first to acknowledge Munroe's greatness, even people suffering from a chronic hatred towards anything concerned with math will find the humour and absurdity of What If? hard to resist The Student Funny and fascinating: brilliant for dinner with mates Graeme le Saux It will satisfy the curious and arouse curiosity in anyone who's not - and it's got great jokes Irish Times An essential holiday companion Nature
Randall Munroe is the creator of the webcomic xkcd and author of xkcd: Volume 0. Randall was born in Easton, Pennsylvania, and grew up outside Richmond, Virginia. After studying physics at Christopher Newport University, he got a job building robots at NASA Langley Research Center. In 2006 he left NASA to draw comics on the internet full time, and has since been nominated for a Hugo Award three times. The International Astronomical Union recently named an asteroid after him: asteroid 4942 Munroe is big enough to cause mass extinction if it ever hits a planet like Earth.