What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions

( 37 )

Overview

From the creator of the wildly popular webcomic xkcd comes this hilarious and informative book of 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
...

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What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions

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Overview

From the creator of the wildly popular webcomic xkcd comes this hilarious and informative book of 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 of the speed of light? How fast can you hit a speed bump while driving and live? If there were 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.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
A Barnes & Noble Best Book of 2014

Randall Munroe isn’t afraid to answer the tough questions. The questions that leave us lying awake deep into the night, pondering. Questions like, “What would happen if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90 percent the speed of light?” (Answer: It would not go well.) For years, Munroe, a former NASA roboticist, has explored the absurd side of mathematics and technology in his popular webcomic xkcd, and he brings the same skewed genius (and endearing stick-figure drawings) to bear answering off-the-wall questions with as much scientific accuracy as he can muster (even when the question is, “Is it possible to build a jetpack using downward-firing machine guns?”). See all of the Best Nonfiction Books of 2014.

From the Publisher
"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. A" —Entertainment Weekly
 
"Catchy and approachable...There's plenty of scientific rigor behind his elaborate explanations but he punctuates them with sly humor and winningly primitive cartoon diagrams...A cut above so many popular science and technology books."—NPR.org

"Consistently fascinating and entertaining...Munroe leavens the hard science with whimsical touches...An illuminating handbook of methods of reasoning."—Wall Street Journal
 
"It’s fun to watch as Munroe tackles each question and examines every possible complication with nerdy and methodical aplomb, his distinctive scribblings providing clever running commentary of peanut-gallery jokes as his train of thought (sometimes) happily derails. The delightfully demented ‘What If?’ is the most fun you can have with math and science, short of becoming your own evil genius...We feel the tug of Munroe’s playful yet existentially-tinged worldview, and all that geek logic and number-crunching becomes unexpectedly poignant."—Boston Globe

“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
 
"[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 humor." —Huffington Post
 
"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 answers are all illustrated with XKCD’s trademark stick figures...and these are eminently approachable." —Newsweek
 
"What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions 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
 
"Loaded with the same dry wit and blank-faced stick figures that populate xkcd, What If? is that rare book that will have you laughing as you learn just how a mass extinction might unfold."—Discover

"Wide-ranging and strangely poignant...This book is tons of fun...Munroe’s spiffy essays do tend to resemble the sort of lectures that cool professors give on the first day of class...It’s quality entertainment."—Washington Independent Review of Books
 
“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? is a fast, engrossing read…The charm of What If? lies in the ease Munroe has jumping past intensely interesting conclusions and onto his next thought, tangent, or consequence. It’s as if Munroe is a unseen stage technician pulling back the curtain — the answers were always there, we just needed someone who knew how to show us. Even he seems surprised at what he finds.” – Nerdist 

"Those who enjoyed the irreverent style of Allie Brosh’s best-selling memoir, Hyperbole and a Half, will enjoy Munroe’s serious and silly musings on everything from science to romance."—Library Journal

Library Journal
10/01/2014
Have you ever wondered at what point in history there were too many English-language books to read in one lifetime? Or what would happen to the Earth if the Sun didn't exist? Munroe has your answers. A former NASA roboticist, the author launched the weblog xkcd.com, which purposely has no phonetic pronunciation, in 2005. The blog's blend of math and science, sarcasm, and stick-figure drawings has gained a loyal following. (His etching of someone who reads a book on juggling, tries to juggle, fails, and immediately trashes the book is especially poignant.) In 2012, Munroe started answering reader-submitted hypotheticals using Internet research along with his own knowledge. That series, "What If," is the focus of this witty nonfiction debut, which features a plethora of new black-and-white cartoons. VERDICT Those who enjoyed the irreverent style of Allie Brosh's best-selling memoir, Hyperbole and a Half, will enjoy Munroe's serious and silly musings on everything from science to romance. One question submitted to his blog: "If all digital data were stored on punch cards, how big would Google's data warehouse be?" was even answered by the search-engine behemoth. The response, "No comment."—Stephanie Sendaula, Library Journal
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781483030203
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
  • Publication date: 9/2/2014
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Unabridged
  • Sales rank: 156,467
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 5.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Randall Munroe is the author of the popular webcomic xkcd and the science question-and-answer blog What If. 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, supporting himself through the sale of xkcd t-shirts, prints, posters, and books. He likes candlelight dinners and long walks on the beach. Very long walks. Lots of people say they like long walks on the beach, but then they get out on the beach and after just an hour or two, they say they're getting tired. Bring a tent. He lives in Massachusetts.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 37 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(25)

4 Star

(7)

3 Star

(2)

2 Star

(1)

1 Star

(2)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 37 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 2, 2014

    Randall has an amazing mind, and this book should be the textboo

    Randall has an amazing mind, and this book should be the textbook for back-of-a-napkin theories and estimates.  He teaches unit conversion, Fermi estimation, basic research principles, and a variety of other useful skills.  These are the skills that kids today need, and they are presented in a unique and hilarious format.  

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 2, 2014

    This is an AMAZING book. It is fun to read and teaches you somet

    This is an AMAZING book. It is fun to read and teaches you something, sort of. It is also a fun book to give to people that you just don't know what to give them.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 17, 2014

    so amazing

    get this now

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 9, 2015

    My 12 year old loves it!

    I purchased this for my 12 year old son for Christmas because he's always been interested in science, and he's always spouting off random scientific facts, some true and some just "what ifs." By the day after Christmas, he was 3/4 of the way done with it. I haven't had a chance to read any of it myself, but if it can keep a 12 year old boy - one who also received video games as gifts - interested in reading, it deserves the 5 stars.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 17, 2014

    If you ever wondered, then this may be for you!

    I am a mechanical engineer, philosopher and curator of absurdly unanswered questions about everything. This book, being exactly what it proposes to be, is fantastic. I enjoyed every answer and found the approach to answering such things as have been asked to be evident of a person who shares my curiosity of and love for the infinitum of life. I wish the book was of greater volume.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 14, 2014

    Wonderful book with his usual wit, insight and downright brillia

    Wonderful book with his usual wit, insight and downright brilliance. There was a bit too much repeated from the website though - I was hoping for a little more new material for the book. But all the same, it's a fabulous read, everyone will enjoy this, and I do plan on buying another copy or two as gifts, so please, don't think I'm being a downer on this title. 4.5 stars for sure!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 29, 2014

    Randall Munroe's XKCD is often one of the major highlight's of m

    Randall Munroe's XKCD is often one of the major highlight's of my day.  It's the combination of his 
    "interesting" brand of humor (thank goodness there are other people out there that don't take the
    straight line to the end of the 'joke'!) and the awe I feel at his scope of knowledge about things I 
    always wanted to learn and understand, but, didn't, couldn't.  

    I don't always get the science, but his pieces almost always make me curious enough to follow-up
    and try to get at least a basic-level understanding of "what the heck" he is talking about.
    I still don't always get the joke or point, but I've certainly learned something.  I'm in awe of his
    depth and breadth of knowledge, his ability to convey that in simple line drawings, and his
    occasional, but stunning overview of our world and universe.  He is certainly close to, if not
    on top of people I'd most like to meet.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 2014

    Awesome

    Hilarious scientifically correct answers to questions I've always wondered about but never asked.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 3, 2014

    Don't bother!

    The books takes on questions that are far out of the realm of possible interest to anyone. Don't bother!

    1 out of 19 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 18, 2014

    Awesome

    Great book!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 6, 2014

    Genius

    Munroe has had to match high expectations he set forth with xkcd and his What If? articles posted there. He mas met and exceeded those expectations.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 5, 2014

    Munroe is a great blend of funny, smart, and creative.  Buy the

    Munroe is a great blend of funny, smart, and creative.  Buy the book, read the comic.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 13, 2015

    Awesome book

    I enjoyed the draining of the oceans and the weird and worrying questions. :D

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 18, 2015

    Amazing

    This is by far one of the best books ive ever read

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 14, 2015

    Miss mary scheck

    This book is very Sientificaly Exsperamental Sience book its' awesome

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 7, 2015

    This book becomes boring after half a dozen or so questions. Chi

    This book becomes boring after half a dozen or so questions. Childish, and/or stupid questions answered by
    someone


    who ought to attend jr high schools and impress that audience.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 28, 2015

    I'll parrot the other good reviews. Randall is curious, ironic,

    I'll parrot the other good reviews. Randall is curious, ironic, and entertaining. With a sharp scientific mind and a gift to explain things that ought to inspire Tufte.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2015

    Good book

    This is the best most hilarious book ever!!!!!!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 23, 2015

    Bookhound123

    Great book. A little pricy for an e reader, but still a really good read

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 18, 2015

    more from this reviewer

    Had a "ball" reading this great book with my grandchil

    Had a "ball" reading this great book with my grandchildren! Fun and intellectual!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 37 Customer Reviews

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