Skip to Main Content
What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions is an expanded, more detailed version of Randall Monroe's popular xkcd.com comic website. The questions he asks are fun and absurd, like "What would happen if a baseball were pitched at the speed of light?" and "How hard would you have to shoot a hockey puck for a goalie to be knocked back into the net?" The answers are easy to understand and relatable - and who doesn't love a book filled with math and physics jokes?!
What if?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions
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?
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.
Bethany Hellerich, Science & Visual Arts