Last month, we selected Mindset by Dr. Carol Dweck as our first ever Book of the Month. We discounted the book all month long, and brought you additional coverage of Mindset through interviews, guest posts, audioclips, and more.
This month, I’m thrilled to say that we’ve chosen another fantastic book: What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe. The subtitle really says it all. Randall, the creator of the hilarious comic website xkcd, tackles ridiculous hypothetical scenarios with all of the rigor of more so-called serious questions.
For example, one questions asks what would happen if you jumped into a pool of spent nuclear waste. As it turns out, this depends on where exactly you are swimming. In some parts of the pool, you’d hardly receive any radiation at all and would be just fine. But if you were to swim down to the bottom and back, you’d probably die as a result.
Another question looks at the statistical probability of finding your soulmate. It’s a pretty low chance. If the government created a sort of ChatRoulette for potential soulmates, and you spent eight hours on it each day, everyone would get matched up in a few decades.
Other questions involve a mole of moles, how fast a dropped steak would have to fall in order to cook it, an earth with no sun, and much more.
These are the sort of questions that your physics teacher would have sent you out of class for asking. But when it comes to Munroe, the crazier the question, the better. He puts in a great deal of time and effort researching his answers, asking experts, finding the answers to equations, and writing pages-long explanations. Each answer is based firmly in math and science.
None other than Wil Wheaton (Star Trek: The Next Generation, Stand by Me) provides the narration for the What If audiobook. He brims with enthusiasm for the subject matter as he reads.
Check out the TED Talk Munroe did, in which he delves into baseball speeds and the plethora of Google’s data.