- Hardcover: 336 pages
- Publisher: John Murray; 1 edition (2 September 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1848549571
- ISBN-13: 978-1848549579
- Product Dimensions: 16.3 x 3 x 20.6 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 481 g
- Customer Reviews: 5,980 customer ratings
Amazon Bestsellers Rank:
89,899 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- #11790 in Science, Nature & Maths
- #2518 in Fiction About Social & Family Issues for Young Adults
- #5733 in Humour (Books)
What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions Hardcover – 2 September 2014
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While you can read much of what's in this book on his website, it's great to have it all in a single collection that you can keep beside your bed or on your coffee table.
The book is pretty much an entire series on what if certain things were to happen, like the earth suddenly stopping its spin.
It's an entertaining read and will get your imagination flowing, but it's not as educational as I had hoped. There's just not a whole lot of depth to the answers presented. The stock the book is printed on could also be a lot better than it is.
I believe most of us would benefit from a greater tendency to see patterns and sciences operating around us. For example, there have been floods here recently, and people doing things like driving into floodwaters (where they can't see submerged objects), or going 100Kmph through deep puddles (apparently untroubled by the idea of totally losing traction and aquaplaning into oncoming traffic) could really benefit from thinking a bit more about how physics predicts some disastrous outcomes!
Top international reviews
Its a total dip-in book. The short chapters (3-6 pages) are pretty much random, and cover all areas of science. I've learnt stuf about genetics that I never realised, as well as radioactivity, the periodical table and much more besides, as well as chuckling away and giggling and geneally annoying people right through Christmas Day.
Age range? I'd say mid-secondary school (13ish) up to any age as I think you need a moderate grounding in science to get the jokes at times, but I can see it would be a great way for an upper secondary school pupil to really annoy their science teacher. - as well as for science teachers to really engage their pupils.
He has always had an interest in the sciences and studied maths at degree level, so I was a little nervous that this book might be childish or too simplistic. However, this has not been the case at all. It has covered enough complex bits to keep him interested and uses plenty of brilliant witty humour to make it a highly entertaining read. I think I'll be reading it next!
I love the way he applies science, with an open mind, to the many questions he’s been asked, some of them so odd they’ll make your hair curl. One or two of the questions posed are commonly asked of scientists, and others, but Randall Munroe puts an intriguing spin on his answers to these.
I’ll list just a small sample of the questions posed: ‘What would happen if the Earth and all terrestrial objects suddenly stopped spinning, but the atmosphere retained its velocity’, ‘What would happen if you made a periodic table out of cube-shaped bricks, where each brick was made of the corresponding element?’, ‘Let’s assume there’s life on the nearest habitable exoplanet and that they have technology comparable to ours. If they looked at our star right now, what would they see?’, and ‘How many unique English tweets are possible? How long would it take for the population of the world to read them out loud?’
Eclectic: possibly the best description of the content. Amusing, well thought out, undoubtedly contentious in certain circles, informative and entertaining. The author raises other questions in answering those he is set by correspondents, considering the issues as if the questions were serious (most of the time; he does add brief sarcastic comments for some of the more peculiar questions, especially those that might lead the reader to suspect some twisted motivation on behalf of the questioner!)
This is one of those delightful books readers can dip into in odd spare moments and glean some fascinating information along with the mind-bending possibilities discussed.
Thoroughly enjoyable, educational and funny.
I really recommend this as a book for anybody that likes to think and ponder. I wish there was more.
I find it brilliant the way he approaches in a technical way some questions that may sound stupid.
Once I started reading it, I just couldn't stop and in 3 days, sadly, it was all finished.
I own all his other books (Thing Explainer, How To, XKCD collections) but this one I've bought at least 4 times because I really like to "spread the word" and for me it's a perfect gift to give to a friend.
In all seriousness, I think this may be my favourite gift from Christmas '14 and will probably still be my favourite gift of Christmas '15 as well (unless Munroe gets around to releasing Vol. 2 in the interim - please-oh-yes-please!). What if? is just a fantastic collection of scientific thought, humour and bizarre scenarios. I'm (painfully) forcing myself to read in blocks to eek out the enjoyment for a few months, but so far everything has been exceptional or better. Probably the worst section to date has been the one dedicated to scenarios involving lightning... which says a lot about a book, if the questions on plate tectonics and people jumping are MORE exciting than good, ol'fashioned lightning!
Couple examples incl what would happen if you collected the periodic table, what would happen if everyone jumped at same time and what would happen if world quarantined to rid the common cold virus etc etc
I find it vaguely disturbing that I found myself waiting for the "extreme" questions that he chooses not to delve into unless via a single cartoon, or in some cases not even to touch at all.
All in all, here is someone with social awareness, and an extremely funny and dedicated exploration of the stranger side of life, physics and the universe.
Highly recommend for absolutely everyone from the point that they can start to read upwards!
Thoroughly enjoyed reading this and may even retain some of the more useful information (e.g how to make the most unlikely cocktail).