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Seriously, Read a Book!

Thoughts on books, often interpreted through the high-brow prism of cartoon (read: Archer) references. Wait! I had something for this...

Currently reading

The Sketchnote Handbook: The Illustrated Guide to Visual Notetaking
Mike Rohde
The Antidote
Oliver Burkeman
The Kind Worth Killing
Peter Swanson
Data Points: Visualization That Means Something
Nathan Yau
James Buchanan
Jean H. Baker, Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.

What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions

What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions - Randall Munroe

Update: This is my first experience in reading a book in paper-copy and having it actually change how much I enjoyed it. A friend who knows me all too well gave me the hardcover version of What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions as a birthday present- and reading it as an ebook just didn't do it justice. The laugh-factor jumped by several orders of magnitude! So here's to Randal Munroe, XKCD and keeping physical books alive!


The brain behind xkcd, Randall Munroe, has been churning out (in addition to nerdy and hilarious stick-figure comics) answers to imaginative queries submitted by us lay-folk in What if?, a sort of xkcd sub-blog. So, yes, this is a book-ified blog, which isn't always a bad thing.


I actually hadn't really followed the blog prior to reading the book, and was surprised by the balance Munroe is able to strike to make his answers both “scientific” and accessible. Any curious kid could enjoy the book, and the same goes for adults (though if you're hoping for rigorous calculations you will be disappointed). 


The weird thing about hypothetical questions, though, is that depending on your audience, sometimes the answer you'll get is ‘Who cares?’ And, for whatever reason, my interest arbitrarily waxed and waned. For example:


- Is it possible to build a jetpack using downward firing machine guns? Fascinating! Do tell...

Machine Gun Jetpack XKCD

- What would happen if a hair dryer with continuous power was turned on and put in an airtight 1x1x1 meter box? Better question: Why would you ever want to know that?

Hair Dryer XKCD

I found easily three-quarters of the questions interesting, so I won't dock serious points for that, and that wouldn't be problematic if I were more of a browser-type reader. 


Of course, extra love added for a veritable rolling mental montage of Archer tie-ins. The Weightless Arrow question (something to the effect of: would the friction of air eventually stop an arrow in a zero-gravity environment?) could be easily answered by my favorite world's greatest secret agent. 


Archer Fuck You Space