What if the Earth stopped spinning?
What if you threw a baseball at the speed of light?
What if a rainstorm dropped all its water in a single, giant drop?
What if you put a hole in the oceans and drained them?
These and plenty of other questions make up the contents of Randall Munroe’s silly yet well-researched book What if? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions. Munroe, most known for his popular webcomic XKCD, which delivers nerdy and intelligent humor through stick figures, uses scientific data and mathematics to answer outlandish questions as accurately as he can. Usually while scaling up the terms of the questions to make them even more outlandish.
Munroe’s talent as a writer is his ability to deliver the complicated and esoteric in a hilariously absurd way that anyone can find delightful. While his answers are replete with mathematics related to astrophysics, nuclear forces, and weather patterns, the insane scenarios he outlines are as easy to laugh at for the everyman as they are for the scientist. The stick figure drawing of a T-Rex being fed to the Sarlacc Monster helps.
Something of a cross between Mythbusters, Calvin and Hobbes, and Bill Nye: The Science Guy, What if? is an enjoyable collection of weird ideas that manages to deliver both science lessons and laughs at once. So whether you read it for the humor, the research, or both, you’ll certainly enjoy yourself. And you’ll come away with newfound concern for falling, burning steaks.