Title: What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions
Author: Randall Munroe
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Time taken to read: 1 week
Goodreads synopsis: Randall Munroe left NASA in 2005 to start up his hugely popular site XKCD ‘a web comic of romance, sarcasm, math and language’ which offers a witty take on the world of science and geeks. It now has 600,000 to a million page hits daily. Every now and then, Munroe would get emails asking him to arbitrate a science debate. ‘My friend and I were arguing about what would happen if a bullet got struck by lightning, and we agreed that you should resolve it . . . ‘ He liked these questions so much that he started up What If. […] 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, studded with memorable cartoons and infographics. They often predict the complete annihilation of humankind, or at least a really big explosion. Far more than a book for geeks, WHAT IF: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions explains the laws of science in operation in a way that every intelligent reader will enjoy and feel much the smarter for having read.
I am not really a science person. Well, maybe just a little. When it comes to the four main school subjects, the order in which I am most interested is as follows:
- Math (except for algebra, which I would put above history)
This book is half science, half humor. I loved the humor. I skimmed the science. Mostly because I’m just not smart enough to understand it, and I know that, and I’m okay with that. But it helped that a lot of the questions were really interesting, so I tried to get it. Here are some of my favorite questions:
What would happen if everyone on Earth stood as close to each other as they could and jumped, everyone landing on the ground at the same instant?
If every human somehow simply disappeared from the face of the Earth, how long would it be before the last artificial light source would go out?
If everyone on the planet stayed away from each other for a couple of weeks, wouldn’t the common cold be wiped out?
The answers? You’ll have to read to find out. I’d tell you, but there’s no way I can explain them, or even summarize them with a simple yes or no.
I can tell you that the comics and commentary in this book are hilarious. If you have any interest in science or fun facts at all, I’d definitely recommend this. It’s like, the ultimate nerd book. I gave it four stars only because there were a few questions where I didn’t even understand the question, let alone the answer, and I thought perhaps a better question could have been chosen for the book in its place.
Please don’t forget to follow my brand new bookstagram @katelikesbooks! Happy reading, friends!