From the creator of the wildly popular webcomic xkcd comes this hilarious and informative book of answers to important questions you probably never thought to ask.
Millions of people visit xkcd.com each week to read Randall Munroe's iconic webcomic. His stick-figure drawings about science, technology, language, and love have a large and passionate following. Fans of xkcd ask Munroe a lot of strange questions. What if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90 percent of the speed of light? How fast can you hit a speed bump while driving and live? If there were a robot apocalypse, how long would humanity last?
In pursuit of answers, Munroe runs computer simulations, pores over stacks of declassified military research memos, solves differential equations, and consults with nuclear reactor operators. His responses are masterpieces of clarity and hilarity, complemented by signature xkcd comics. They often predict the complete annihilation of humankind, or at least a really big explosion.
The book features new and never-before-answered questions, along with updated and expanded versions of the most popular answers from the xkcd website. What If? will be required listening for xkcd fans and anyone who loves to ponder the hypothetical.
PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your My Library section along with the audio.
©2014 Randall Munroe (P)2014 Blackstone Audiobook
I found this very entertaining, overall. Wheaton did a great job, as is expected with his work. Munroe is a smart guy and funny in a lot of ways. But not being a math or science fellow myself (liberal arts guy), I found a lot of the listen to be shooting way over my head. I would glaze over just a bit. Further, there were a large number of questionable logic leaps, though that judgment is clearly the provence of the author/physicist in charge.
A number of references to the webcomic/website as well- I imagine it translated very well in the print version, but it was essentially useless in the audio.
I liked it. It was funny. It is worth buying (I wouldn't burn a credit on it). Just be aware of the above as you click add to cart.
Only two words needed for this review, MORE PLEASE. If you are a fan of "Myth Busters" or "The Straight Dope" you will love this book. My only possible complaint would be it wasn't long enough, I want more.
I love Wil's reading style he was able to inject just the right amount of sarcasm into the book.
First of all it's read by Wil Wheaton, awesome! If you're not familiar with who that is then you're probably expecting a completely different book than anything written by Munroe.
As a fan of XKCD I'm all to comfortable with playing along as if I understood the highly mathematical joke I just read. After you hear the whiz of jokes flying over your head enough you kind of go with it. Now imagine a few hours of that and you'll kind of get what this books is like listening to it. While Munroe does an excellent and accurate job (I think it's accurate, if not at least well described) of explaining the "what if" scenarios, the mathematical explanations are lengthy and unless you're accustomed to graduate level physics lectures stands a very good chance of inducing a "zone out" until the scenario returns to a narrative laymen description.
Don't let this deter you from giving it a shot! You'll get the idea of every one of the "what if" scenarios I promise you.
Great prep for an interview at Google. This book poses a wide range of questions, most of which can only be answered in a conceptual fashion using equations few of us are very familiar with. The fun part is when Randall Munroe attaches equations to help the listener understand how to approach an answer. My favorite question: What is the probability of calling someone, saying gesundheit when they said hello, and discovering that they just sneezed. Super narration too.
People say I resemble my dog (and vice-versa). He can hear sounds I can't hear, but I'm the one who listens to audiobooks.
If, like me, you enjoy non-fiction that attempts to explain science, history, economics, or what have you to readers who are not fully educated in those fields, and particularly enjoy them in audio format, then you really can't go wrong with What If, the longtime New York Times best seller. The premise is immediately captivating, as expressed in the subtitle:serious scientific answers to absurd hypothetical questions. Like, what would happen if you drained the oceans, or if the sun was suddenly extinguished?
That the answers are not as completely serious as the subtitle suggests is actually a good thing, especially with the incomparable Wil Wheaton reading the droll explanations, leading us to their inevitable punch lines. For example, the answer about the sun is all about the positives that might result in the absence of sunlight, until the punchline -- we couldn't realize those benefits because we would all freeze to death.
Still, the good thing about answering absurd questions in this way is arriving at backhanded explanations of serious scientific subjects, such as the ways the sun can be a detriment, despite being so essential to life. Unfortunately, not every topic is as informative as this best of examples. To be honest, some of the answers, scientifically rigorous though they may be, are actually as silly as the original questions, and do not really impart any useful knowledge.
In the final analysis, I find What If to be consistently entertaining, but not consistently edifying -- I certainly like to be entertained by these kinds of books, but not at the expense of learning something new.
a perfect mix of smart and funny. the author spells everything out both mathematically and in more simple terms, adding a witty humor to his mind-blowing conclusions. i highly recommend.
This book has now made the short list as one of my all-time favorite audio books. It was informative, hilarious, and just downright fun. My wife and I listened to it while on a road trip, and it kept us entertained as if it were a classic novel. Wil Wheaton's narration is absolutely perfect, and actually inspired us to go out and buy the print version of the book (which I also highly recommend).
If you love science, humor, Wil Wheaton, XKCD, and/or the Netherlands -- This is the book for you!
The Netherlands... you'll have to listen and find out :)
Wil Wheaton's narration, in addition to giving it the "nerd cred" it deserves, narrates the book absolutely perfectly. It's the little subtleties like the way he changes his tone for footnotes, or gets excited about blowing up the moon with a super laser. It really brings a book, which otherwise has no characters, to life.
We listened to this while driving. We actually had to stop, and pull over at one point from laughing so hard.
Oh, I loved this audiobook... a great combination of interesting (and sometimes strange) science facts and xkcd-flavored humor. My only complaint: It ended too soon. Highly recommended.
The premise of What if, applying science to absurdist, hypothetical scenarios, is the sort of thing that should appeal to the geek in me but I can’t say I liked this book as a whole. Munroe based it on his popular website (I hadn’t visited it before reading What if) and the scenarios he examines seem to be drawn from submissions from its readers. He infuses this mix of absurdity crossed with science with liberal amounts of tongue in cheek humor but I found it became a bit grating after awhile, not because the subject matter needed to be treated with more respect (it doesn’t) but because I think it would have been funnier to let the absurdity of the scenarios/answers speak more for themselves. Particularly irritating were the short (non) answer responses to some questions which came off as condescending rather than funny. With that out of the way, What if does a good job of taking the listener through the science behind the answer to the scenario without getting bogged down in too much detail. Munroe also indulges the reader by extending the example further than the limitations of the original question – just to see what would happen. Aside from the humor part, I think the key to whether you will love or hate this book lies in whether you really are that interested in how hard you would need to shoot a hockey puck in order to knock someone over. For me, I wasn’t and although a few scenarios peaked my interest (if all humans simultaneously aimed a light at the same spot on the moon, would it be visible), there weren’t enough to sustain my attention.
Fine narration - well done Wesley Crusher!
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