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What If Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions

Written by Randall Munroe

Featured Books for 11+ readers Featured Books for 13+ readers

LoveReading View on What If Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions

From the creator of the wildly popular, hilarious and informative answers to important questions you probably never thought to ask.


What If Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions Synopsis

The Sunday Times Number One Bestseller   Millions visit each week to read Randall Munroe's iconic webcomic. Fans ask him a lot of strange questions: How fast can you hit a speed bump, driving, and live? When (if ever) did the sun go down on the British Empire? When will Facebook contain more profiles of dead people than living? How many humans would a T Rex rampaging through New York need to eat a day? In pursuit of answers, Munroe runs computer simulations, pores over stacks of declassified military research memos, solves differential equations and consults nuclear reactor operators. His responses are masterpieces of clarity and hilarity, complemented by comics. They often predict the complete annihilation of humankind, or at least a really big explosion.

The Good Book Guide Review

If every person on Earth aimed a laser pointer at the Moon at the same time, would it change colour? If you rose steadily at 1ft per second, would you freeze or suffocate first? Such are the questions to which former NASA scientist Randall Munroe has applied his planet-sized brain. The answer to the first is ‘depends on the laser’, and to the second, ‘depends whether you are wearing a coat’ What this book demonstrates is just how fascinating it is to hypothesize, and how interesting all the things you discover on the way to finding an answer can be. For instance, that if we gave everyone a laser with an output of 500 terawatts, the Moon’s brightness would boil away the Earth’s oceans. Absurd hypothetical questions are surely what science is all about. If we all asked an absurd hypothetical question, how soon would we make a major scientific breakthrough?

What If Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions Press Reviews

With this book and with XKCD, you're a kid with a chemistry set all over again. [Randall Munroe's] enthusiasm for all things scientific is infectious ... required reading for grown-ups, it's just fun to remember that science is really, really cool REGISTER

Smart answers to silly questions: Randall Munroe reveals all GUARDIAN

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 ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY

The best bathroom book you'll ever buy...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 first chapter, Q. What would happen if the Earth and all terrestrial objects suddenly stopped spinning, but the atmosphere retained its velocity? ends with the anthropomorphized moon worrying over the state of the Earth, and, with the gravity generated by its own rotation around the Earth, saving our dying planet. The physics are real; so is the emotional content... The answers are all illustrated with xkcd's trademark stick figures... and these are eminently approachable NEWSWEEK


Education should aim to teach people to reason confidently about problems that they have never come across before. This book is a great deal of fun, and a masterclass in such reasoning. Like all the best lessons, you only realise you've learnt something once you've finished it The Economist

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All versions of this book

ISBN: 9781848549579
Publication date: 04/09/2014
Format: Hardback

Book Information

ISBN: 9781848549579
Publication date: 4th September 2014
Author: Randall Munroe
Format: Hardback
Pagination: 320 pages
Suitable for: 11+ readers, 13+ readers

About Randall Munroe

Randall Munroe is the creator of the webcomic xkcd and author of xkcd: Volume 0. Randall was born in Easton, Pennsylvania, and grew up outside Richmond, Virginia. After studying physics at Christopher Newport University, he got a job building robots at NASA Langley Research Center. In 2006 he left NASA to draw comics on the internet full time, and has since been nominated for a Hugo Award three times. The International Astronomical Union recently named an asteroid after him: asteroid 4942 Munroe is big enough to cause mass extinction if it ever hits a planet like Earth.

More About Randall Munroe

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