What If?
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What If? : Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions

4.16 (74,471 ratings by Goodreads)
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Description

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.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 303 pages
  • 180.34 x 231.14 x 30.48mm | 843.68g
  • HOUGHTON MIFFLIN
  • United States
  • English
  • w. num. figs.
  • 0544272994
  • 9780544272996
  • 13,400

Review quote

-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
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Review Text

Praise for Randall Munroe, What If? and xkcd:

" What If? is one of my Internet must-reads, and I look forward to each new installment, and always read it with delight."
-Cory Doctorow, BoingBoing

"Randall Munroe is a national treasure."
-Phil Plait

"For scientists, the price of progress is specialization. When the goal of any researcher is to lay claim to a tiny niche in a crowded discipline, it's hard for laypeople to find answers to the really important interdisciplinary questions. Questions like, 'Is it possible to build a jetpack using downward-firing machine guns?' Fortunately, such people can turn to Randall Munroe, the author of the XKCD comic strip loved by fans of internet culture. . . . For Munroe, who writes with a clarity and wit honed over eight years of writing captions for his webcomic, the fact that a question might be impossible to solve is no deterrent to pursuing it."
- Wall Street Journal Speakeasy blog

"By speaking the language of geeks. . . while dealing with relationships and the meaning of a computer-centric life, xkcd has become required reading for techies across the world....The Internet has also created a bond between Mr. Munroe and his readers that is exceptional. They reenact in real life the odd ideas he puts forward in his strip." - The New York Times

"With his steady regimen of math jokes, physics jokes, and antisocial optimism, xkcd creator Randall Munroe, a former NASA roboticist, scores traffic numbers in NBC.com or Oprah.com territory. One key to the strip's success may be that it doesn't just comment on nerd culture, it embodies nerd culture." - Wired , in an issue featuring "the people who have shaped the planet's past 20 years"

"Sometimes the beloved geek-chic webcomic xkcd is funny in a broadly accessible way. Sometimes it's achingly poignant, sometimes it's socially intelligent, and sometimes it's esoteric humor that programmers or scientists have to explain to the rest of us. But at its most ambitious, it either packs massive amounts of interesting information into a small space, or engages in breathtaking experiments with the medium....[A]t its best [xkcd] isn't a strip comic so much as an idea factory and a shared experience." - Onion AV Club
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Rating details

74,471 ratings
4.16 out of 5 stars
5 45% (33,616)
4 34% (25,236)
3 15% (11,355)
2 4% (2,804)
1 2% (1,460)
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