Recent Reads: What If?

What If?

This book has been on my radar for a little while now as I thought my dad would really enjoy a Christmas present that was serious but with a very silly, almost ridiculous twist. Since he has yet to complete the last three books I’ve purchased for him, this one fell to me. I received it on a Sunday a week or two ago and had it finished by the following Thursday. The questions posed in the book are absurd (and real) and the answers are often humorously irreverent in their extrapolation and description. Oh, and they’re backed with science. Here is a small sample of some of the “serious” questions Mr. Munroe (author of the web comic xkcd) tackles:

  • What would happen if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90% the speed of light?
  • What if everyone actually had only one soul mate, a random person somewhere in the world?
  • Is it possible to build a jetpack using downward-firing machine guns?
  • What if a glass of water was, all of a sudden, literally half empty?

Here are some of the more “outlandish” questions he’s been asked:

  • Given humanity’s current knowledge and capabilities, is it possible to build a new star?
  • What sort of logistic anomalies would you encounter in trying to raise an army of apes?
  • How fast would a human have to run in order to be cut in half at the bellybutton by a cheese-cutting wire?
  • If you saved a whole life’s worth of kissing and used all that suction power on one single kiss, how much suction force would that single kiss have?

The book was an extremely fun read and sparked my own questions like:

  • What would happen if Superman flew into space and used his heat vision and cold breath on the entire Earth simultaneously?
  • What would happen if all cars were destroyed and everyone could walk faster than the speed of sound?

I would highly recommend this book to any budding young scientist (hint: Tiffany) or anyone who had a vivid imagination regarding the nature of the world/universe in which we live. I know I will be re-reading this book again.

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