Randall Munroe left NASA in 2005 to start up his hugely popular site XKCD, which offers a witty take on the world of science and geeks. It’s had over a billion page hits to date. A year ago Munroe set up a new section – What If – where he tackles a series of impossible questions: If your cells suddenly lost the power to divide, how long would you survive? How dangerous is it, really, in a pool in a thunderstorm? If we hooked turbines to people exercising in gyms, how much power could we produce? Far more than a book for geeks, WHAT IF explains the laws of science in operation in a way that every intelligent reader will enjoy and feel the smarter for having read.
I’ve read XKCD a few times and have been impressed by Munroe’s wit and unapologetic geekiness, so I looked forward to reading this collection. This book is definitely scientific, but don’t be intimidated: while you’ll learn plenty about ideas ranging from putting a submarine into orbit around the earth to the Richter scale to how much actual power Yoda can produce, you thankfully don’t have to be a rocket scientist to enjoy the humor found here. The most enjoyable portion for me was the “Weird and Worrying Questions” section, in which you do have to wonder what happened to make the submitter think of that particular query.
Folks who are regular readers of the webcomic will find new entries here, and those who haven’t visited the site will likely do so after getting a taste in this book.
– Review by Marleah