Buy Used
£8.71
+ £2.80 UK delivery
Used: Very Good | Details
Condition: Used: Very Good
Comment: Unbeatable customer service, and we usually ship the same or next day. Over one million satisfied customers!
Have one to sell?
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See all 5 images

What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions Hardcover – 2 Sep 2014

4.6 out of 5 stars 498 customer reviews

See all formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
Amazon Price
New from Used from
Kindle Edition
"Please retry"
Hardcover, 2 Sep 2014
£8.71
Digital Download
"Please retry"
£4.69
click to open popover

Special Offers and Product Promotions

Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.

  • Apple
  • Android
  • Windows Phone

To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.




Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) (2 Sept. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0544272994
  • ISBN-13: 978-0544272996
  • Product Dimensions: 17.8 x 3 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (498 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 603,869 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

Praise for Randall Munroe, "What If?" and xkcd:
""What If?" is one of my Internet must-reads, and I look forward to each new installment, and always read it with delight."
--Cory Doctorow, BoingBoing
"Randall Munroe is a national treasure."
--Phil Plait
"For scientists, the price of progress is specialization. When the goal of any researcher is to lay claim to a tiny niche in a crowded discipline, it's hard for laypeople to find answers to the really important interdisciplinary questions. Questions like, 'Is it possible to build a jetpack using downward-firing machine guns?' Fortunately, such people can turn to Randall Munroe, the author of the xkcd comic strip loved by fans of internet culture. . . . For Munroe, who writes with a clarity and wit honed over eight years of writing captions for his webcomic, the fact that a question might be impossible to solve is no deterrent to pursuing it."
--"Wall Street Journal" Speakeasy blog
"By speaking the language of geeks. . . while dealing with relationships and the meaning of a computer-centric life, xkcd has become required reading for techies across the world....The Internet has also created a bond between Mr. Munroe and his readers that is exceptional. They reenact in real life the odd ideas he puts forward in his strip." --"The New York Times"
"With his steady regimen of math jokes, physics jokes, and antisocial optimism, xkcd creator Randall Munroe, a former NASA roboticist, scores traffic numbers in NBC.com or Oprah.com territory. One key to the strip's success may be that it doesn't just comment on nerd culture, it embodies nerd culture." --"Wired," in an issue featuring "the people who have shaped the planet's past 20 years"
""What If?" maintains a delightfully free-wheeling tone throughout, especially when complicated calculations lead to whimsical results. (Did you know that Yoda's Force power roughly translates to the amount of energy used to drive a smart car?) Despite all the hard facts and gigantic numbers, it never feels like a textbook--and you don't have to be a rocket scientist to enjoy it. A" --"Entertainment Weekly"
""What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions" includes old favorites, new inquiries and the mix of expert research and accessible wit that has made Munroe a favorite among both geeks and laymen."--"TIME"
"Loaded with the same dry wit and blank-faced stick figures that populate xkcd, What If? is that rare book that will have you laughing as you learn just how a mass extinction might unfold." --"Discover"
"Munroe takes inane, useless and often quite pointless questions asked by real humans (mostly sent to him through his website), and turns them into beautiful expositions on the impossible that illuminate the furthest reaches, almost to the limits, of the modern sciences..The answers are all illustrated with XKCD's trademark stick figures...and these are eminently approachable." --"Newsweek"
"["What If?"] has solved my annual birthday-present and holiday-gift dilemmas for a large group of people...What makes Munroe's work so fantastic is a combination of two elements: his commitment to trying to answer even the weirdest question with solid science, and his undeniable sense of humor." --"Huffington Post"
"Munroe's brilliant What-If? column--which features scientifically rigorous, utterly absurd answers to ridiculous hypotheticals--has been on the bestseller lists since it was announced in March. Today, it hits shelves and: It. Is. A. Triumph." --BoingBoing "What If? is a fast, engrossing read...The charm of What If? lies in the ease Munroe has jumping past intensely interesting conclusions and onto his next thought, tangent, or consequence. It's as if Munroe is a unseen stage technician pulling back the curtain -- the answers were always there, we just needed someone who knew how to show us. Even he seems surprised at what he finds." - Nerdist "Sometimes the beloved geek-chic webcomic xkcd is funny in a broadly accessible way. Sometimes it's achingly poignant, sometimes it's socially intelligent, and sometimes it's esoteric humor that programmers or scientists have to explain to the rest of us. But at its most ambitious, it either packs massive amounts of interesting information into a small space, or engages in breathtaking experiments with the medium....[A]t its best [xkcd] isn't a strip comic so much as an idea factory and a shared experience." --"Onion AV Club"
"Munroe has hit on a wonderful form of science and engineering communication that can do so much--extolling the value of analytical thinking, examining data, and doing back-of-the-envelope calculations--while entertaining readers at the same time... an incredibly fun book with quirky, hand-drawn pictures." --"American Scientist"


"What If? maintains a delightfully free-wheeling tone throughout, especially when complicated calculations lead to whimsical results...Despite all the hard facts and gigantic numbers, it never feels like a textbook and you don t have to be a rocket scientist to enjoy it. A" Entertainment Weekly"Catchy and approachable...There's plenty of scientific rigor behind his elaborate explanations but he punctuates them with sly humor and winningly primitive cartoon diagrams...A cut above so many popular science and technology books." --NPR.org "Consistently fascinating and entertaining...Munroe leavens the hard science with whimsical touches...An illuminating handbook of methods of reasoning." --Wall Street Journal"It s fun to watch as Munroe tackles each question and examines every possible complication with nerdy and methodical aplomb, his distinctive scribblings providing clever running commentary of peanut-gallery jokes as his train of thought (sometimes) happily derails. The delightfully demented What If? is the most fun you can have with math and science, short of becoming your own evil genius...We feel the tug of Munroe s playful yet existentially-tinged worldview, and all that geek logic and number-crunching becomes unexpectedly poignant." --Boston Globe Munroe has hit on a wonderful form of science and engineering communication that can do so much extolling the value of analytical thinking, examining data, and doing back-of-the-envelope calculations while entertaining readers at the same time an incredibly fun book with quirky, hand-drawn pictures. American Scientist"[What If?] has solved my annual birthday-present and holiday-gift dilemmas for a large group of people...What makes Munroe's work so fantastic is a combination of two elements: his commitment to trying to answer even the weirdest question with solid science, and his undeniable sense of humor." Huffington Post"Munroe takes inane, useless and often quite pointless questions asked by real humans (mostly sent to him through his website), and turns them into beautiful expositions on the impossible that illuminate the furthest reaches, almost to the limits, of the modern sciences..The answers are all illustrated with XKCD s trademark stick figures...and these are eminently approachable." Newsweek"What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions includes old favorites, new inquiries and the mix of expert research and accessible wit that has made Munroe a favorite among both geeks and laymen." TIME"Loaded with the same dry wit and blank-faced stick figures that populate xkcd, What If? is that rare book that will have you laughing as you learn just how a mass extinction might unfold." --Discover "Wide-ranging and strangely poignant...This book is tons of fun...Munroe s spiffy essays do tend to resemble the sort of lectures that cool professors give on the first day of class...It s quality entertainment." --Washington Independent Review of Books Munroe's brilliant What-If? column which features scientifically rigorous, utterly absurd answers to ridiculous hypotheticals has been on the bestseller lists since it was announced in March. Today, it hits shelves and: It. Is. A. Triumph. BoingBoing"What If? is a fast, engrossing read The charm of What If? lies in the ease Munroe has jumping past intensely interesting conclusions and onto his next thought, tangent, or consequence. It s as if Munroe is a unseen stage technician pulling back the curtain the answers were always there, we just needed someone who knew how to show us. Even he seems surprised at what he finds. Nerdist "Those who enjoyed the irreverent style of Allie Brosh s best-selling memoir, "Hyperbole and a Half," will enjoy Munroe s serious and silly musings on everything from science to romance." --"Library Journal""

Book Description

Science's most intriguing questions answered by the web's favourite writer, the genius behind xkcd.com.

Munroe's hilarious and compelling answers explain everything from the odds of meeting your one true soulmate to how many humans a rampaging T-Rex would need to eat a day.

--This text refers to the Digital Download edition.

See all Product Description

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Randall Munroe, author of the brilliant xkcd cartoons, sprinkles a good selection of his cartoon magic throughout What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions, but the real joy comes from the absurd brilliance in trying to give scientific answers to questions such as, "From what height would you need to drop a steak for it to be cooked when it hit the ground?" (Spoiler: you can't, but you can burn the surface off something special.)

Not only are the questions bizarre, so too is much of the real research which is used in trying to answer them. In some cases it's almost as much fun trying to work out why a particular fact was ever unearthed.

Great fun and occasionally educational, but one word of warning - much of the content is from Munroe's website, so if you have been a regular reader of that site over the years then the book will often be a fun nostalgia tour rather than a new entertainment.
Comment 7 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I've been hovering my finger over one of the illustrations for five minutes now, and the tooltip still hasn't appeared.
6 Comments 216 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Wonderfully written, the book is effortless to read and the answers are well constructed, scientifically robust and extremely entertaining! Of course, the illustrations are excellent and well placed, and the layout of the book itself is logical and keeps me coming back for more. My only complaint: I wish it was longer!
1 Comment 24 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Hardcover
I am deeply suspicious whenever a book is sold on the basis that its author is in some sense famous, so I was immediately wary of Randall Munroe's What If, especially as the book was plastered with references to his internet science cartoon site xkcd. The press release gets even more excited, proclaiming 'Science's most intriguing questions answered by the web's favourite writer, the genius behind XKCD.com.' Damn him with faint praise, won't you? This isn't helped by the fact that the few times I've seen Munroe's stick cartoons, usually re-spread on social media, I haven't found them at all funny. So it was almost a disappointment when I discovered that I really liked this book.

Munro gives detailed answers to weird questions asked from readers on his website. Questions like 'If every person on Earth aimed a laser pointer at the Moon at the same time, would it change colour?' and 'How much Force power can Yoda output?' There are even some questions that Munroe shakes his head and retreats from - things like 'How many houses are burned down in the US every year? What would be the easiest way to increase the number by a significant amount (say, at least 15%)?'

The answers given are light hearted, but take the challenge seriously and with some impressive back-of-an-envelope calculation and a touch of research deliver convincing answers. There is a distinguished precedent in taking absurd suggestions (admittedly self-generated) and using them to explore the realities of science in George Gamow's classic (if now rather difficult to read) Mr Tompkins books where, for instance, he explores what would happen if the speed of light reduced to a walking pace.
Read more ›
Comment 36 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Paperback
‘What If?’ written by Randall Munroe is a book that from beginning to the end with its style - a combination of humor and true facts - manages to charm the reader and doesn’t allow you to put it aside.

Book starts with an anecdote from the author’s youth in which he calculated how many soft and hard things are in the world which in short presents the style using which this work was written. And though in the end he admits not knowing whether there are more ones or the others, he will tell the reader many interesting (his favorite ones) stories learned along the life path.

On 320 pages divided in almost 70 chapters he will bring one “What if…” question per chapter and then provide answer which will both entertain and teach you, sometimes even amaze you.

Questions are different, those most ones are related to nature such as “What would happen if the Earth and all terrestrial objects suddenly stopped spinning, but the atmosphere retained its velocity” or environmental ones such as “What if I took a swim in a typical spent nuclear fuel pool”.

What gives the book an extra charm are at first glance casually drawn illustrations as if they were the result of the game of preschool child with which the pages are decorated which all together leads to situation you’ll truly fly through the book, having constantly good time.

And mainly for this reason I recommend Randall Munroe’s book ‘What If?’ as good example that science does not have to be boring if presented in a way everyone could understand (and have fun).
Comment 16 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I almost never write reviews for books, even books I really like. But this time I need to make an exception: for this is a book that caused me to laugh out loud on almost every page. At every turn, there was a delightful footnote, or a novel concept, even occasionally a new word ("apricity" has become my new favourite, too). My mind is stretched in fantastic and interesting ways, I was entertained continuously, and I couldn't put it down. What more can you ask? Well, my wife asked - eventually, and then repeatedly - that I stop reading particularly fine snippets of it out to her as it was interrupting her, but even this proved something of a challenge for me, for this book is a fine, fine thing indeed.

Randall Muroe - I salute you.
Comment 17 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse

Most Recent Customer Reviews



Feedback