Sunday, November 9, 2014

What If? by Randall Munroe

Part of the reason I picked up this book from library was because I absolutely love Munroe's web comic, XKCD. I also figured that this book we be good for Sci-Fi Month. I know that this book is non-fiction, but the best Sci-Fi always has a good foundation in good science.* 

I have to admit, as much as I LOVE math and science, the materials in non-fiction books are generally too dense for me to read through on my busy reading schedule. Fortunately Munroe makes this book a relatively quick read by using short chapters and good illustrations.** I was able to read through this book and understand what he was talking about. The science in this book is fascinating and well researched! The answers to a lot of these questions are thought out in ways that the asker may not have intended, but are nonetheless vital to the answer. For example, in answering the question about isolating everyone for a couple of weeks to wipe out the common cold, Munroe also looks at the economic consequences of this isolation. 

There is so much information and thought in this book that I loved just about every word of it. Even if some of the information may seem trivial, you never know when it will come in handy; like a large enough balloon not even needing helium to slow your fall to safe speeds, or the fact that fire tornadoes are real things and should be feared.

As much as I did like the snippet segments called "Weird (and Worrying) Questions from the What If? Inbox" I feel like these were questions that could have been innocently asked by writers wanting to get their facts straight. After all, how many creative stories could written that include dumping anti-matter into a Chernobyl reactor,*** or the speed at which a human would have to run to be cut in half by a cheese-cutting wire.**** Not to mention, some actual answers on those would be interesting! Then again, I talk to authors a lot so, maybe I'm just weird.

Overall, this was a really good book with a lot of fun, science, and mathematics. It doesn't get much better than that!


*Okay, I had to put in a request for this book at the library and wait and it just happened to coincide with Sci-Fi Month, but my argument remains valid.
**Good in that they are informative and/or humorous. There's only so much quality you can get from stick figures.
***Pg. 60
****Pg. 125

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