What If?, by Randall Munroe: #BookReview.

304 pages

Comic Strips/Physical Chemistry/Web Graphics and Animation

Subtitled ‘Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions’, this book is as entertaining as it is informative. The author is at pains to inform readers that, although he has a degree in physics, he works as the owner/creator of a webcomic, XKCD, he also warns that he is less interested in health and safety than in exploring how things react when blown up, etc.

I love the way he applies science, with an open mind, to the many questions he’s been asked, some of them so odd they’ll make your hair curl. One or two of the questions posed are commonly asked of scientists, and others, but Randall Munroe puts an intriguing spin on his answers to these.

I’ll list just a small sample of the questions posed: ‘What would happen if the Earth and all terrestrial objects suddenly stopped spinning, but the atmosphere retained its velocity’, ‘What would happen if you made a periodic table out of cube-shaped bricks, where each brick was made of the corresponding element?’, ‘Let’s assume there’s life on the nearest habitable exoplanet and that they have technology comparable to ours. If they looked at our star right now, what would they see?’, and ‘How many unique English tweets are possible? How long would it take for the population of the world to read them out loud?’

Eclectic: possibly the best description of the content. Amusing, well thought out, undoubtedly contentious in certain circles, informative and entertaining. The author raises other questions in answering those he is set by correspondents, considering the issues as if the questions were serious (most of the time; he does add brief sarcastic comments for some of the more peculiar questions, especially those that might lead the reader to suspect some twisted motivation on behalf of the questioner!)

This is one of those delightful books readers can dip into in odd spare moments and glean some fascinating information along with the mind-bending possibilities discussed.

Thoroughly enjoyable, educational and funny.

[Any review is a personal opinion. No reviewer can represent the view of anyone else. The best we can manage is an honest reaction to any given book.]

2 thoughts on “What If?, by Randall Munroe: #BookReview.

  1. Thanks Tom. If you go to the author’s website (use the link in the post – XKCD) Go to the menu item ‘What If?and scroll to the very bottom, where you’ll find an invitation to submit a question. Good luck!


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