Book Review: What If? by Randall Munroe

Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions

I loved The Thing Explainer so much I need to read more by Randall Munroe, so I picked up What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions. They are so fun and even though the answers are hard, I loved it all the more.

Book Review: What If? by Randall Munroe


Title & Author: What If? by Randall Munroe
Genre: Humor, Science
Release Date: September 2 2014
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt


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.

If your cells suddenly lost the power to divide, how long would you survive?

How dangerous is it, really, to be in a swimming pool in a thunderstorm?

If we hooked turbines to people exercising in gyms, how much power could we produce?

What if everyone only had one soulmate?

When (if ever) did the sun go down on the British empire?

How fast can you hit a speed bump while driving and live?

What would happen if the moon went away?

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 give What If? by Randall Munroe five out of five hearts because I think it is just genius! This book is a little harder to read for the average human than The Thing Explainer. Which is not that weird since he does use a lot of scientific words and calculations one needs to understand to understand the answer to the question.

Randall brings out another great read. It took me awhile to push through it because my brain usually just got tired after reading two or three articles.

If you really like this book, you should definitely read his XKCD comic. Those are also really interesting, but are more for fun than actual seriousness.

Let me know what you thought of this book!
If you have any requests for which book I should talk about next, please let me know in the comments down below.

For now, let books enrich your life!


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