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What If?

Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions

By Randall Munroe

Narrated by Wil Wheaton
6 hours 36 minutes

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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 a large and passionate following.

Fans of xkcd ask Munroe a lot of strange questions. What if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90 percent the speed of light? How fast can you hit a speed bump while driving and live? If there was a robot apocalypse, how long would humanity last?

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, complemented by signature xkcd comics. They often predict the complete annihilation of humankind, or at least a really big explosion.

The book features new and never-before-answered questions, along with updated and expanded versions of the most popular answers from the xkcd website. What If? will be required reading for xkcd fans and anyone who loves to ponder the hypothetical.

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Randall Munroe is a national treasure.

Phil Plait, The Bad Astronomer

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

About the Author

I'm just this guy, you know? I'm a CNU graduate with a degree in physics. Before starting xkcd, I worked on robots at NASA's Langley Research Center in Virginia. As of June 2007 I live in Massachusetts. In my spare time I climb things, open strange doors, and go to goth clubs dressed as a frat guy so I can stand around and look terribly uncomfortable. At frat parties I do the same thing, but the other way around.

Reviews

[Randall Munroe's What If?] becomes an illuminating handbook of methods of reasoning from first principles: work by analogy, perform very rough orders-of-magnitude calculations, or try to flip perspectives. Of course it helps to know some basic science, too. And learning Newtonian mechanics is surely more fun when you are figuring out how to build a jetpack using downward-firing machine guns. (Ideally, it turns out, you'd want at least 300 AK-47s.)

Steven Poole, The Wall Street Journal

Author

Narrator
Wil Wheaton

ISBN
9781483030166

Length
6 hours 36 minutes

Language
English

Publisher
Blackstone Audio, Inc.

Publication Date

Abridged
No

  • I've never seen the Icarus story as a lesson about the limitations of humans. I see it as a lesson about the limitations of wax as an adhesive.
  • If you set out a cup of warm water on Mars, it'll try to boil, freeze, and sublimate, practically all at once. Water on Mars seems to want to be in any state except liquid.
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