What if?

Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions

303 pages

English language

Published Aug. 7, 2014 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

ISBN:
978-0-544-27299-6
Copied ISBN!
OCLC Number:
872620028
Goodreads:
21413662

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4 stars (155 reviews)

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 …

14 editions

Tell don't show

3 stars

If you really like near future scifi written by people who have a day job in physics or astronomy, and you especially like the pages of description of how some hypothetical space weapon works, this might be your favourite book ever. Especially if you don't miss characters or plot.

For the rest of us., it's a bit hit and miss. A lot of the chapters end up being about death and destruction, for whatever reason.

Disclaimer: I did listen to the chapters in random order, because apparently MP3 metadata is hard. I honestly don't think this matters that much.

Review of 'What if?' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

Monroe's book answers that old question, "Is there such a thing as a stupid question?" It turns out the answer is "yes." But that doesn't lessen the enjoyment of the book!

It also is a book that graphically (!) shows that it's not always obvious what happens to something if it is taken to a physical extreme. The results are fascinating!

Monroe is writing "what if? Two: Science Boogaloo." And that's a good thing

Review of 'What If?' on 'Goodreads'

5 stars

Raamat on ilmunud ka eesti keeles, pealkirjaks „Mis oleks, kui …? Tõsised teaduslikud vastused absurdsetele ja hüpoteetilistele küsimustele“.

Kes siis ei tea XKCD koomiksit ning selle autorit Randall Munroed? Tähendab - kui keegi ei tea, siis vaadake: xkcd.com/ . Kusjuures Munroe koomiksitel on alati lisamõõde, mida näeb, kui viia kursor koomiksi kohale ja lugeda ilmuvat teksti. Teaduslik lähenemisviis on talle alati meeldinud, lisaks on autoril mitmeid nohikunalju, mis just patsiga poiste seas palju elevust on tekitanud. On ju ta erialalt füüsik, kes on muuhulgas töötanud NASAs robootiku ja progejana.

Mingi hetk hakkas ta koguma lugejatelt tulevaid veidraid küsimusi ja pidama eraldi blogi nimega "What If?" kus ta siis neid küsimusi lahkas teaduse vaatenurgast, tihtipeale lisades mõnusa huumoriga nüansse. Ühel hetkel valas ta selle kõik raamatusse, mida siin tutvustan. Sest kellele ei pakuks huvi saada teada, mis saaks Maast, kui Päike äkitselt ära kustuks? Või kui kiirelt saab sõita üle "lamava …

Review of 'What if?' on 'Goodreads'

5 stars

[Third rereading; more if you count having read it online for years before the book.]

This is not the sort of book I'd usually review, any more than I'd review gravity or living on a planet with a breathable atmosphere. Not that I'm saying xkcd is as fundamental or necessary to my life ... — all right, I guess that is what I'm saying, and I stand by it. xkcd has been a highlight of my weeks since 2008; Munroe is easily the sharpest, most insightful and on-key cartoonist I've ever read, and that includes Larson and Watterson. What If is a delightful collection of his non-xkcd work, laugh-out-loud funny even on third-plus rereading; nerdy and sweet and exciting and sensitive and timeless. (Except for "Common Cold", p.114 - that one is quite timely as I write this in December 2020).

Why review it now? Because in the years since …

Review of 'What if?' on 'Goodreads'

3 stars

When it says "serious scientific," it really goes for it. My eyes glazed over at all the numbers and metric measurements. It's definitely thorough, and some readers might appreciate the motto, "If it's worth doing, it's worth overdoing," as some answers were taken to a exhaustingly exhaustive level. I did appreciate learning a handful of new facts, but a lot of it was over my head. I was entertained and even giggled often (over a science book!), but will I retain any of it?

Review of 'What if?' on 'Goodreads'

5 stars

DISCLAIMER
Do not try any of this at home. The author of this review is an Internet reviewer, 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. Goodreads and the author disclaim responsibility for any adverse effects resulting, directly or indirectly, from the information contained in this review.

If you want to learn how to walk a batter (throwing the ball at 90% the speed of light), survive swimming in a spent nuclear fuel pool, create a jetpack out of machine guns, create a planet solely of moles (to be precise, a mole of moles), create a new star with a hairdryer, cook a steak by dropping it from space, or how to make the Netherlands take over the world, this is the book for you.

This book has about 57,000 words.

If …

Review of 'What if?' on 'Goodreads'

5 stars

When I worked an office job many (...many) years ago, I had a small group of two or three friends with whom I used to shoot the breeze with via email (in the beforetime before office-wide messaging apps became all the rage) all day. Inbetween mundane office gossip, I'd occasionally posit random hypothetical questions, and my friends were, well, friend enough to indulge me most of the time. The number of staples to fill a cubicle, how many staplers to stack to the ceiling, whether Spiderman or Batman would win in a fight, things like that. There never was any satisfactory/conclusive answer to any of them, but the resulting discussion was often rewarding in itself.

This book feeds that "I wonder..." voice in my head that never really shuts up. I'm a big science nerd, and I love all the math and science and logic used to come up with …

Review of 'What If?' on Goodreads

5 stars

Received this as an early birthday gift and it was worth the read. After having this on my Amazon wish list for ages I was very happy to dive in and laugh for nearly 300 pages.

If you want to give a geeky friend a gift, look no further. Munroe is just as funny in writing as his stick figures are.

Review of 'What if?' on 'Goodreads'

5 stars

A disclaimer: I like science. I like science books for the common reader. I grew up devouring every collection of Isaac Asimov science essays the library had. Nonetheless, I think this book is approachable and accessible to just about anyone.

If you've ever read the webcomic XKCD then you probably already have a good idea what to expect (and if you haven't, WHY NOT?? Go do so now.) Munroe accepts strange question submissions and uses Science to come up with answers to such vital concerns as, "is it possible to build a jet pack using downward-firing machine guns?" and "how much Force power can Yoda output?", in an easy to understand format and with friendly illustrations.

An amusing, entertaining, and mildly educational read, good for dipping into a bit at a time and pondering at length in between.




His use of amusing footnotes is also clearly inspired by footnote artists …

Review of 'What if?' on 'Goodreads'

5 stars

Highly recommendable! Throughout the book I felt entertained and learned a lot of new facts! How will look the world like in 1 million years? What happens if we all (=people of the world) meet at the same place and jump? (Answer in short: yikes!)
I wish I had a teacher in school who could explain the world in so easy words and pictures, catching ones interest and brining back the desire to learn new things.

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Subjects

  • Mathematics
  • Statistics
  • Miscellanea
  • Science
  • Questions and answers
  • Physics

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