What If?

What If?

Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions

Book - 2014
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From 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.

Publisher: Boston : Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014.
Copyright Date: ?2014
ISBN: 9780544272996
0544272994
Branch Call Number: 500 MUN
Characteristics: xii, 303 pages :,illustrations, maps

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sit_walk Nov 16, 2017

You don't really need another opinion on this book, but here's one anyway: this book is witty, informative, and supremely readable. Just a blast! And you'll learn something too. :)

From the creator of the webcomic xkcd comes this collection of well-thought out responses to weird hypothetical science questions like whether it's possible to build a jetpack using downward-firing machine guns or if fire tornadoes are possible. Smart and funny, these responses are entertaining a... Read More »

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aperl May 04, 2015

Have you ever thought What If? Filled with answers to questions when Google and Wikipedia fail you.


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SkokieStaff_Steven Feb 28, 2018

Randall Munroe’s “What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions” reminds me of those recipes in which sneaky cooks insert healthful ingredients into comfort foods, such as cauliflower into mashed potatoes. In this book, Munroe inserts informative lessons in physics, mathematics, and scientific reasoning into startling scenarios that are as much fun to contemplate as they would be horrific to live through. While it’s hard to pick a favorite, I especially enjoyed his description of what would happen if all the rain in a rain storm were concentrated into a single drop. The short answer: you wouldn’t want to be standing under it. Just about all his hypothetical situations end in cataclysm, which is a great part of the fun. Fans of this book will want to check out “xkcd,” Munroe’s collection of cartoons from his website of the same name, which is just as brainy and amusing as “What if?” but definitely intended for an adult audience.

sit_walk Nov 16, 2017

You don't really need another opinion on this book, but here's one anyway: this book is witty, informative, and supremely readable. Just a blast! And you'll learn something too. :)

l
lorraineacasas
Nov 13, 2017

Lots of effort put into this book - just thinking of all the research that had to be done is tremendous in itself. It takes a special type of mind to answer all those questions and Randall Monroe did a great job in doing so!

a
amecoo
Jul 29, 2017

This book had a lot of funny questions in it and the science that was used to explain the scenarios and there probabilities was amazing. Well written book and hard to put down.

j
J_Schmitt
Mar 28, 2017

This book is really interesting and a fun book to read. I would recommend this book to anyone who is curious and likes to learn about the world around them. This book is not just for learning though, you can read just for the humor and the book is full of it.

laurendouglass Feb 13, 2017

If you try this book and love it make sure to check out xkcd online. This is a great book for older kids that are just getting their feet wet with long form non-fiction. They can read through the questions/answers that interest them and skip the ones that don't.

t
TEENREVIEWBOARD
Jan 18, 2017

“What If?” is a book about analyzing and estimating values to answer hypothetical questions. It is quite silly and fun as many of these questions are extremely absurd. For example one question that Randall Munroe attempted to solve in the book was “What would have happened if a baseball was thrown at the speed of light?” These types of absurd hypothetical questions were great to read about as they showed how physicists may go about trying to find what factors were likely to affect a result and also showed how in extreme cases physics behaves in bizarre ways. Overall this book was goofy and enjoyable while still slightly thought provoking.
- @CookieMonster of The Hamilton Public Library's Teen Review Board

Have you ever had a really dumb question, but wanted a serious answer? Fear no more, because Munroe, a former astrophysicist at NASA, is here, bringing his expertise in science, mathematics to good use: by answering questions like “what would happen if everyone on earth jumped at the same time?” and “If every person on Earth aimed a laser pointer at the Moon at the same time, would it change color?” Munroe formulates his answers with a mixture of hard science and lighthearted humor, in a way that makes even the most complex of mathematical theories easy to understand. Unfortunately, more often than not, the answers result in blowing up the Earth or wiping out humanity. Filled with smart answers to (kind of) stupid questions, What If? is odd, thoughtful and absolutely hilarious. 5/5 Stars.
- @Apis of the Teen Review Board at the Hamilton Public Library

This is a very interesting, and educating, book. I love how this book gives you legitimate answers to questions that may seem absurd and irrelevant. This novel answers a lot of crazy questions, that one may not be willing to ask out loud. It teaches the reader cool facts that are not regularly known. Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone with an absurd-seeming question they would like answered, or anyone looking to learn some cool information.
I would rate this novel 3.5/5
- @potterhead of the Teen Review Board of the Hamilton Public Library

ArapahoeKati Oct 21, 2016

Remember the good ol' day of Bill Nye the Science guy? This is for you!

JCLHopeH Jul 26, 2016

This is a perfect book if you don't want to commit to a long story arc, just picking it up whenever it's convenient. Sometimes I hopped around to the illustrations that caught my eye, other times I worked methodically through the Q&As because I didn't want to miss a bit of this humorous and informative collection. Good coffee table book and conversation starter!

w
wandalynn
Jun 25, 2016

Fun and informative. You don't have to be a science geek to understand Munroe's answers to these very imaginative questions. Although some left me wondering about the questioners themselves.

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Ethan_4518
Dec 20, 2017

Ethan_4518 thinks this title is suitable for between the ages of 11 and 17

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green_turtle_570
Dec 08, 2015

green_turtle_570 thinks this title is suitable for 9 years and over

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jimg2000
Nov 17, 2014

And the author's math checked out unlike Lee Child's Jack Reacher books:

We’ll imagine our storm measures 100 kilometers on each side and has a high TPW (total precipitable water) content of 6 centimeters. This means the water in our rainstorm would have a volume of:
100km x 100km x 6cm = 0.6km^3

That water would weigh 600 million tons (which happens to be about the current weight of our species).

j
jimg2000
Nov 17, 2014

As comedian Ron White said about hurricanes, “It’s not that the wind is blowing, it’s what the wind is blowing.”

Search YouTube for “gallium infiltration” to see how strange this is.

apricity - This is my single favorite word in the English language. It means the warmth of sunlight in winter.

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