Book – What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions
Author – Randall Munroe
Year – 2014
Pages – 296
Genre – Non-Fiction
Having just reviewed my first graphic novel, it seems appropriate that my next blog is somewhat comic adjacent. In this case, it is a book by Randall Munroe, creator of the excellent webcomic xkcd.com – subtitled ‘a webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math and science’. If you have not visited before, then please, what are you still doing here? Go and read through the thousands of comics that he had produced. You won’t find the artwork of Blue Is The Warmest Colour, seeing as how nearly all of what he does is stickman drawings, but you will find some of the cleverest, and by a long way geekiest, humour around.
This book however is not a comic book – although I do have his comic collection keeping a space warm on the bookshelf so I will approach that sometime later in the year. It is instead a book version of a popular side of his website where people send him ridiculous scientific questions and he answers them as well as he possibly can. I shall pick out a couple at random now from the book as it sits next to me. “What would happen if you were to gather a mole (unit of measurement) of moles (furry creature) in one place?” (hint: it involves a moon of molten mole jam). “If every person on Earth pointed a laser pointer at the moon, would it change colour?” (hint: Munroe is not leaving it until he finds a way to make it work). “What would happen if everyone on earth was to stand as close to each other as possible and jump, landing at exactly the same time?” (hint: the answer to that is nowhere near as interesting as working out what we are going to do with everyone after this has happened).
Munroe’s answers are incredibly funny, but also impeccably well researched and presented as scientific fact as much as possible. Peppered throughout are examples of his now iconic art style, and little moments of disturbing questions he has had submitted in the past that he has no intention of answering. It feels like a perfect extension of the New Scientist books that I used to read as a teenager. I enjoy a good science book, and I enjoy a good laugh, so this is a perfect splice of the two. I have his follow up book as well (signed by the author no less!) so shall look forward to having a read of that at some point soon as well.