Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions
Read by Wil Wheaton
Have you ever wondered how fast you could hit a speed bump while driving…and live? Or what would happen to the world if we drained our oceans? Maybe you’ve tried to imagine what Times Square, New York looked like one million, or even a billion years ago. All the answers to these and many other hypothetical questions are in this fun and informative book.
Randall Munroe is a former NASA roboticist and the creator of the xkcd.com, “a webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language” and this book is a collection of the most popular questions he’s received.
I picked this audiobook because the title caught my eye. Although I don’t have a math or science mind, I like random information and appreciate that people like Munroe have the brain power to provide the answers. I’d never thought about any of the more than fifty scenarios, but I was interested in the answers and appreciated that he took the time to figure them out. But be ready for very detailed and thorough explanations!
While the questions represent wild and unrealistic situations, Munroe answers them respectfully and enthusiastically with serious math and science. One person asked what would happen if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90 percent the speed of light. Another wonders if it would be fatal to swim in a spent nuclear fuel pool. Munroe also includes short answers to what he calls “Weird (and Worrying) Questions” and believe me, no question is too unusual to be considered. While many of the questions are based on an interest in science, many reflect social and ethical ideas. These were the ones I was the most interested in.
In addition, Wil Wheaton is an excellent narrator, capturing the author’s happy interest in tackling all kinds of questions, from the wacky to the types that I’m thinking would be good to know in certain, though unlikely, situations.
This is the type of audiobook that would be best listened to one chapter at a time, with a little rest between explanations. I did that in the beginning, but listened to the rest of it over the span of a day. For the non-math and science types, this might be a little too intense. I also checked out the print version at the library and I’m glad I did because the book is illustrated with the author’s famous stick figures and that makes reading a little lighter. While I enjoyed listening to the audiobook version, I also think What If? would make a great coffee table book and recommend either to all curious listeners and readers.
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