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Customers Also BoughtMore About What If? by Randall MunroeOverviewFrom 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 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.
Upon hearing that Randall Munroe, NASA roboticist turned webcomic all-star, is writing a collection of “What If?” columns, a number of you will immediately make plans to buy the book. Don’t worry, you’ll love it. But this review is for the rest of you, who are curious if a bit confused.
Munroe draws the extremely popular webcomic xkcd. You may think you’ve never seen it, but pull it up online and you might well exclaim, “Oh, THAT guy!” (At least, that was my response). What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions brings Munroe’s stick figures and low-key hilarity to a formidable task: answering reader-submitted questions like, how many arrows would it take to blot out the sun like in the movie 300? Or, what would happen if everyone on Earth crowded into the same space and jumped together, landing at the same time? (Answers: It’s complicated; and not much, but the traffic jam when everyone tried to go home would be our undoing). The book includes both new questions and some favorites from the website, including a puzzler about whether each of us has a soul mate.
As the book’s subtitle indicates, Munroe uses real science to get to his answers, many of which are terrifying (do NOT try to collect all the elements in the Periodic Table), but his drawings leaven the prospect of total annihilation.
However you approach What If?, you’ll end up someplace different after reading it. I went from enjoying the humor to wanting to learn and understand more (while still laughing a lot). The perfect book for someone with insatiable curiosity, What If? is funny and fascinating in equal measure.