• What If?

  • Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions
  • By: Randall Munroe
  • Narrated by: Wil Wheaton
  • Length: 6 hrs and 36 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Release date: 09-02-14
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars 4.4 (7,190 ratings)

Regular price: $24.47

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Publisher's Summary

From the creator of the wildly popular webcomic xkcd comes this hilarious and informative book of 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 of the speed of light? How fast can you hit a speed bump while driving and live? If there were 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 listening for xkcd fans and anyone who loves to ponder the hypothetical.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your My Library section along with the audio.

©2014 Randall Munroe (P)2014 Blackstone Audiobook
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Neuron on 05-08-16

Humorous but serious answers to crazy hypothetical

What if we only had a single soul mate. What would the odds be that we actually met that person? Most people realize that the answer is some version of “small.” However, in this book, Munroe tries to calculate an answer, after all, assumptions have been spelled out. For this particular question, the first assumption is that your soulmate is alive at the same time as you - which reduced the pool of potential soul mates from 100 billion to ~10 billion. The next assumption is that we will recognize our soul mate when we see him or her. We can then go on and calculate some preliminary odds based on how many people we tend to look at in our lifetime etc. The answer, in the end, is still just that the odds are very, very small that we will run into our soulmate unless external forces are at work.

This above is just one example out of ~100 questions to which this book provides an answer. Other examples include what would happen if the earth suddenly stopped spinning, but the atmosphere kept moving? What would a mole (6 x 10^23) of moles (the animal) look like, and what would happen to it? What would happen if you had a periodic table with blocks that were actually made up of the elements? Which character in the Star Wars movies has the most power (Is it the Emperor? Yoda? or Luke?).

The author does not hide the fact that he has a wicked sense of humor and that he likes it when things burn, or (better) explode. Indeed, a good proportion of the answers in this book involves the death of a few or a lot of people.

For a science nerd like myself, this was an excellent and funny book. As other reviewers have noted, the mathematics can sometimes be difficult to grasp; however, you usually don’t need to understand the underlying mathematics understand the answer to the different questions. The humor and the fact that you learn lots of facts that are perfect conversation starters (especially if you are a scientist), makes this a thoroughly enjoyable read.

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15 of 15 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Joel D Offenberg on 02-14-15

Loved It

If you like playing around with over-the-top thought experiments and truly strange ideas, with realistic science, this a great book for you.

The best comparison I have is Mary Roach...if you like her works, then you will truly enjoy "What if?"

Wil Wheaton is a great narrator for this book, he captures the geeky science and Randall's wry humor exceedingly well. And I always give kudos to narrators of scienc-y works when they don't stumble over or mispronounce obscure technical words...and he handled it extremely well.

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8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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