What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe

Non-fiction, popular science

This blog/Tumblr is going to try and help me do a few of my resolutions for 2015. The first one is read more. Personally I don’t think that I read as much as I can, or should. This is troubling for a librarian as people ask me on a semi-regular basis for a good book, and I can’t honestly reply with a recent title. So that’s the first goal that I hope to tackle. Secondly, I want to become a better librarian. This meshes well with the first goal, but beyond having better reader’s advisory, I want to improve other skills as well. Skills such as but not limited to: my writing voice, social media presence, coding and time management. Lastly, I want to be able to look back at this blog in 2016 and have a record of how I’ve done this year.


So, on to the book! What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randal Munroe, audio book read by Wil Wheaton. This is an expanded compilation of the What If? blog by XKCD creator and cartoonist, Randal Munroe. The premise of both the blog and the book are that Randal get asked questions. Absurd questions. REALLY crazy, off the wall questions. He then takes his time and answers them with a fair degree of scientific rigor. So if you wanted to know what would happen to a baseball pitched at 90% of the speed of light, what would happen if you tried to fly a light aircraft on Venus, or if you dropped a steak from low Earth orbit, you can read what his best guess would be. For the book he’s taken some of his favorite questions and answers as well as a few that are fresh and don’t appear on the blog. If you are a geek, or are extremely curious, have a mind that works in a quirky way when you see a tough question, or all of the above this is going to be an entertaining read for you.

I’m listening to the audio book, as read by Wil Wheaton. I generally like Wil’s reading, as he’s got good inflection and steady voice that leads me to think that he’s having as much fun reading this as I’m having listening. I think that he’s a good voice for audio books, as I’ve listened to a few of the titles that he’s read (Ready Player One by Ernest Cline and Redshirts by John Scalzi) as well as his podcasts and Tabletop Youtube series.

This is a very educational book because it talks about science and the scientific process while at the same time, not talking about science. Randal manages to introduce many different ideas about mathematics, physics and astronomy (to name a few general topics) in a way that lets you understand them, but keeps you entertained by applying them to funny/absurd/crazy questions that let you focus on the what, without getting bogged down equations.

Overall I really enjoyed this, both the book, and writing about the book, so here’s to more in 2015.

Next up, Snoop : What Your Stuff Says About You by Sam Gosling

What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe


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