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What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions | [Randall Munroe]

What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions

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?
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Publisher's Summary

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 thexkcd 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

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  •  
    Charles TULSA, OK, United States 09-28-14
    Charles TULSA, OK, United States 09-28-14

    Criminal defense attorney. Love audible and I'm kind of obsessed with writing reviews. No plot spoilers please. Seriously.

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    "Good in Smaller Chunks"

    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.

    16 of 18 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dedan Killeen, TX, United States 09-13-14
    Dedan Killeen, TX, United States 09-13-14
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    "Hope You got an A in Math and Physics..."

    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.

    6 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Scott Santa Clara, CA, United States 12-18-14
    Scott Santa Clara, CA, United States 12-18-14 Member Since 2011

    No B.S. reviews. I will never soft-pedal bad writing or inept narration.

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    "A humorous lesson in how to think—Brilliantly read"

    What is it—science? Fantasy? Comedy? YES! YES! And YES!

    What's fun about this book is how really crazy-sounding Randall Munroe's answers are—but what's great about it is how serious is the science. In a way, the entire book is a lesson in how to think scientifically without losing your sense of humor. Just the kind of thing that would have Richard Feynman falling out of his chair, laughing.

    To be honest, this book is so completely zany you might want to take it in smaller bites, like I did. That said, bring it on. It's great entertainment for anyone with a wry sense of humor. Also ideal for a high school student who just needs a tiny nudge in a scientific direction, or—for that matter, any high school student.

    Plus, Wil Wheaton is at the top of his form. His narration is absolutly perfect. He's energetic, lucid, and truly brilliant. And this book is the ideal showcase for his considerable talent. For fans of Wil, he's also fabulous narrating "Ready Player One," by Ernest Cline, and this narration is every bit as excellent.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sean J Metzgar WIND GAP, PA, US 12-16-14
    Sean J Metzgar WIND GAP, PA, US 12-16-14 Member Since 2012
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    "One of my all-time favorite audio books!"
    Would you consider the audio edition of What If? to be better than the print version?

    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!


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    The Netherlands... you'll have to listen and find out :)


    What does Wil Wheaton bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    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.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    We listened to this while driving. We actually had to stop, and pull over at one point from laughing so hard.


    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Karen 09-27-14
    Karen 09-27-14 Member Since 2014
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    "My only complaint: It wasn't longer"

    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.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Andy Westport, CT, United States 09-25-14
    Andy Westport, CT, United States 09-25-14 Member Since 2010
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    "be ready to laugh!"

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Wayne P Martin 09-23-14
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    "Just two words needed."
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    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.


    What does Wil Wheaton bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    I love Wil's reading style he was able to inject just the right amount of sarcasm into the book.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    Yes


    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Scott Scarborough, ON, Canada 10-21-14
    Scott Scarborough, ON, Canada 10-21-14 Member Since 2013
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    "Trivia taken to the extreme (squared)"
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    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.


    What does Wil Wheaton bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    Fine narration - well done Wesley Crusher!


    4 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David PASADENA, CA, United States 11-17-14
    David PASADENA, CA, United States 11-17-14 Member Since 2010

    Started audiobooks years ago. Now instead of pop music on my ride to work or walk around the neighborhood I get enriched and smarter.

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    "What would happen if this book never ended?"
    What made the experience of listening to What If? the most enjoyable?

    The narrator tells you stories about ridiculous facts in a simple and matter-of-fact tone that makes you believe that in fact these questions are not insane.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    There are no characters, but the best chapter is about what happens if everyone in the world gets together in the same place and jumps and lands all at the same time. It oesn't end ow you think it does.


    Have you listened to any of Wil Wheaton’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    Sorry, I just remember him as Wesley Crusher.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

    If you think the questions are crazy, wait for the answers...


    Any additional comments?

    This book was awesome. If you have a friend who is into science or engineering and tired of the usual fare out there then get him this book.

    3 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mr David Wells 01-28-15 Member Since 2014
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    "Great Read.!"

    Great listen, quite funny and it gives you some great stories to share at the dinner table.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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