Entertainment Weekly

Stay Connected

Subscribe

Advertise With Us

Learn More

Skip to content

Article

What If?

Posted on

WHAT IF? Randall Munroe

What If?

type:
Book
Current Status:
In Season
author:
Randall Munroe
publisher:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
genre:
Science

We gave it an A

There are only dumb questions in What If?, the new book by Randall Munroe, and that’s exactly how he likes it. A former roboticist at NASA, Munroe now lords over xkcd.com, a forum where he gives readers real (and blissfully tongue-in-cheek) answers to insane questions like ”How many Lego bricks would it take to build a bridge capable of carrying traffic from New York to London?” and ”From what height would you need to drop a steak for it to be cooked when it hit the ground?” Munroe tackles each query with a scientific approach, and his solutions are illuminated with stick-figure drawings and mini-comics that reveal a deeply developed sense of nerd humor. During a breakdown of what would happen if Earth suddenly stopped spinning, his stick man wonders, ”If the old day/night cycle is gone, when can I feed these gremlins?”

What If? maintains a delightfully free-wheeling tone throughout, especially when complicated calculations lead to whimsical results. (Did you know that Yoda’s Force power roughly translates to the amount of energy used to drive a smart car?) Despite all the hard facts and gigantic numbers, it never feels like a textbook — and you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to enjoy it. A