We are currently making improvements to the Audible site. In an effort to enhance the accessibility experience for our customers, we have created a page to more easily navigate the new experience, available at the web address www.audible.com/access.
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?
Regular Price:$24.47
  • Membership Details:
    • First book free with 30-day trial
    • $14.95/month thereafter for your choice of 1 new book each month
    • Cancel easily anytime
    • Exchange books you don't like
    • All selected books are yours to keep, even if you cancel
  • - or -

Your Likes make Audible better!

'Likes' are shared on Facebook and Audible.com. We use your 'likes' to improve Audible.com for all our listeners.

You can turn off Audible.com sharing from your Account Details page.

OK

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 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

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.4 (2705 )
5 star
 (1491)
4 star
 (833)
3 star
 (287)
2 star
 (65)
1 star
 (29)
Overall
4.3 (2446 )
5 star
 (1259)
4 star
 (762)
3 star
 (314)
2 star
 (81)
1 star
 (30)
Story
4.6 (2459 )
5 star
 (1692)
4 star
 (547)
3 star
 (168)
2 star
 (34)
1 star
 (18)
Performance
Sort by:
  •  
    Charles USA 09-28-14
    Charles USA 09-28-14 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2342
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    77
    69
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    194
    2
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "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.

    60 of 69 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Wayne P Martin 09-23-14
    HELPFUL VOTES
    22
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    628
    2
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "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


    7 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dedan Killeen, TX, United States 09-13-14
    Dedan Killeen, TX, United States 09-13-14 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
    38
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    42
    5
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    1
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "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.

    21 of 26 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Andy Westport, CT, United States 09-25-14
    Andy Westport, CT, United States 09-25-14 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
    669
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    477
    368
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    267
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "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.

    6 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dubi New York, NY, United States 04-07-15
    Dubi New York, NY, United States 04-07-15

    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.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    245
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    160
    158
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    7
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Not All That Serious"

    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.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Stephanie 03-14-15
    Stephanie 03-14-15 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    2
    2
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "brainy is the new sexy"

    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.

    2 of 2 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
    HELPFUL VOTES
    14
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    5
    1
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    2
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "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.


    14 of 18 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Karen 09-27-14
    Karen 09-27-14 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
    233
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    131
    47
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    14
    6
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "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.

    8 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Samuel United States 03-28-15
    Samuel United States 03-28-15 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
    6
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    3
    2
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Mildly entertaining."

    Struggled to finish. Some chapters were so dull it hurt. Mildly entertaining but glad its over.

    6 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Scott Scarborough, ON, Canada 10-21-14
    Scott Scarborough, ON, Canada 10-21-14 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
    186
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    211
    110
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    14
    4
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "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!


    13 of 18 people found this review helpful

Report Inappropriate Content

If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.

Cancel

Thank you.

Your report has been received. It will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.