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As a child, the author would constantly ask his parents odd questions. They indulged and encouraged him, setting him on a lifetime path of curiosity, using the mathematics and physics he learned in the course of obtaining a degree in physics and working in robotics at NASA to answer whatever popped into his head. After creating the tremendously successful Web comic xkcd.com, readers began to ask him the kinds of questions he’d mused about himself. He began a feature on xkcd.com: “What If?” to explore answers to these questions. This book is a collection of these questions, some previously published on-line (where you can continue to read them at the previous link), and some only published here. The answers to questions are interspersed with “Weird (and Worrying) Questions from the What If? Inbox,” some of which are reminiscent of my own Titanium Cranium mailbox. The book abounds with the author’s delightful illustrations. Here is a sample of the questions dealt with. I’ve linked the first to the online article to give you a taste of what’s in store for you in the book.
- Is it possible to build a jetpack using downward firing machine guns?
- What would happen if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90% the speed of light?
- In the movie 300 they shoot arrows up into the sky and they seemingly blot out the sun. Is this possible, and how many arrows would it take?
- How high can a human throw something?
- If every person on Earth aimed a laser pointer at the Moon at the same time, would it change color?
- How much Force power can Yoda output?
- How fast can you hit a speed bump while driving and live?
Main belt asteroid 4942 Munroe is named after the author.
Munroe, Randall. What If? New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2014. ISBN 978-0-544-27299-6.
Randall Munroe talks “What If?” at Google in September 2014.