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What If? by Randall Munroe

March 3, 2020

From what height would you have to drop a steak for it to be cooked when it hit the ground?
How high can a human throw something?
How much force power does Yoda have?
What would happen if you opened up a drain hole in the bottom of the Marianas Trench?
Is it possible to make a downward firing machine gun jetpack? 

In his book, What If?, Randall Munroe answers all these questions and many more.  The questions themselves are hilarious and absurd, but he answers them in real scientific ways that will leave you laughing.  The Collection of short essays is made even funnier by the picture on the front; it is a T-Rex escaping from a construction crane that attempts to lift him into the sarlac pit— you know, the giant squid that lives in a hole in Star Wars?

One aspect that I liked that Munroe included was that he explained how he got his answers. An example is, “What would happen if you made a periodic table out of cube shaped bricks, where each brick was made from the corresponding element?”  In his answer, Munroe describes exactly what would happen to the reader if they stacked all the elements as they are in the table. For example:
You could stack the first two rows without much trouble.
The third row would burn you with fire.
The fourth row would kill you with toxic smoke.
The fifth row would do all that stuff PLUS give you a mild dose of radiation.
The sixth would explode violently, destroying the building in a cloud of radioactive, poisonous fire and dust.
Do not make the seventh row.  

The seventh would be a nuclear bomb with extra radioactivity and would instantly turn you and the rest of the table into plasma. Told you not to make it!!

Another feature I liked was that Munroe drew stick figures, and he put his own spin on them.  Often he could make the reader laugh just by the drawings and speech bubbles.

Each chapter poses one question, so the reader can space them out and read for a long time and savor them, or spend only five minutes.  Also, the reader can take time to notice the speech bubbles, which I thought were the most hilarious of all the parts of What If.  Randall Munroe has written many other books, including How To: Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real World Problems, Thing Explainer, Xkcd comics, and many more. 

Overall, this book was a fast read and a good book for people who prefer or like a mix of humor, science, and funny visuals.  I rated it a ten out of ten, and I like how Munroe chooses a mix of a few sane questions and mostly really absurd questions from random people around the world. 

Andreas

Mariner, 400 pages


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