book review

Book Review: What If? By Randall Munroe

In the realm of questions there a lot of variables. Questions be close ended with simple yes or no’s for answers. Questions be more complex leading you to check your watch if someone asks you what time is it? Then there are the questions that use multiple brain cells to muddle through. Cause you to research and to quote every math teacher I ever had “Show your work”. And lastly the questions with sometimes numerous answers because there could be multiple factors effecting the outcome.
What if a University graduate in Robotics who worked for NASA decided to leave his job to draw cartoons?
The outcome could only be Randall Munroe.
This math wiz turned cartoon genius has turned some of the strange questions that he received online at his website into book. What If? is a collection of scientific answers to some he uses the word “absurd” that is putting a light spin some of the questions that are contained in this book.
I wont spoil any of the out come of these questions but if you ever want to know what would happen if everyone in the world gathered in one place and all jumped at the same time what would be in the impact to the Earth than this book is for you.
If you wanted to know what would happen if the oceans drained this book is for you.
If you want the calculated strength of the force from Star Wars that Yoda can wield (we are talking the original trilogy not the prequels) this book is for you.
This book combines wit, real science but at the level that anyone can understand and cartoons to help draw the whole answer together.
I gave this book as a gift, than as the frugal person that I am once they were done reading it and I did the obligatory asked how they liked it, than I asked them to borrow it. Luckily the gift receiver was someone who has damaged a book or two of mine in the past and was happy to loan this book to me.
As it was a loan I wanted to read it quickly to get it back to them, unharmed. I hope they are reading as one who borrows the book should return it in the state that they received it.
I digress, The three to four page answers and calculation spotted with the cartoon humor made for a quick read. I have some advanced level physics, chemistry and biology from my high school days so some of the answers were easy to follow. However, any background in science is not needed as everything is laid out for you.
I even did my grade eleven independent study on Technetium which my teacher made comments on my paper that it was well researched but I would never use this information ever in my life. Since I have used it once I have now proven him wrong and will tell him so whenever I get a chance to go to a high school reunion.
Stress and Burnout
If you are creative, saying no will stop burnout

The audience for this book is wide. It’s part humor, part science and part fact book. Anyone can read it and should. He tackles questions on if the Earth stopped rotating, if there was no Sun and the highly important when will Facebook have more profiles of dead people than living. This last one was exceptionally riveting.

For those of you with e-readers all the pictures are in black and white so easily displayed on your Kindle, Kobo or other reader.
Only available in hardcover, however this book begs to be left on your coffee table to be looked at when company comes over.
What book has anyone read lately that had a disclaimer on the front? The proverbial “do not try this at home”. Just that page alone made me wonder if there was any of the “experiments” in this book that I could actually accomplish. It turns out I can only attempt one (the Periodic Wall of Elements) but after reading just a few of the horrendous things that could happen I decided that I would follow the front page instructions to the letter. I would not attempt.
I sincerely hope that the author writes a sequel to this as it is rare to find a book of math, physics or science in general that is easy to digest, sparks our curiosity and a laugh.
When you do get a chance to read this fantastic book please leave me a comment below with your favorite one. We can discuss and hopefully spark a few What If? questions of our own.


  • Alisha T

    Nice book review, Rebecca!
    Would you be interested in writing a guest review for my blog? If not that's fine – no worries! 🙂

    This is A(lishia) from G+ and myrainydayreads15 blog by the way.

  • Jeremy Crow

    I had to run right over here and read the review because "What If?" is one of my favorite subjects. I was expecting one of those "What if Kennedy hadn't been shot" or "What if the whales became extinct" style books and happened into ANOTHER of my favorite subjects … Explaining the hard to explain. You got an instant Amazon click so I can load this on the Kindle. Thank you 🙂

  • Amy

    Annabella will you review books in science fiction- if you would I'd love the new Joe Steele coming out by Harry Turtledove.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *