‘What If? 2’ by Randall Munroe

Even if the answers aren’t useful for anything, knowing them is fun. The book you’re holding weighs about as much as the electrons in two dolphins. That information probably isn’t useful for anything, but I hope you enjoy it, anyway.

Randall Munroe, What If? 2

It somehow slipped my attention that more than a year ago, xkcd creator Randall Munroe published a follow-up edition to his bestselling book, What If?, in which he attempted to seriously answer some of the weirdest questions he’s received from readers using hard scientific data and analysis.

Fully titled What If? 2: Additional Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions, this second book is essentially more of the same thing (and there’s nothing wrong with that): answering silly questions with serious science.

From the book description:

The millions of people around the world who read and loved What If? still have questions, and those questions are getting stranger. Thank goodness xkcd creator Randall Munroe is here to help. Planning to ride a fire pole from the Moon back to Earth? The hardest part is sticking the landing. Hoping to cool the atmosphere by opening everyone’s freezer door at the same time? Maybe it’s time for a brief introduction to thermodynamics. Want to know what would happen if you rode a helicopter blade, built a billion-story building, made a lava lamp out of lava, or jumped on a geyser as it erupted? Okay, if you insist.

Before you go on a cosmic road trip, feed the residents of New York City to a T. rex, or fill every church with bananas, be sure to consult this practical guide for impractical ideas. Unfazed by absurdity, Munroe consults the latest research on everything from swing-set physics to airliner catapult–design to answer his readers’ questions, clearly and concisely, with illuminating and occasionally terrifying illustrations. As he consistently demonstrates, you can learn a lot from examining how the world might work in very specific extreme circumstances.

Buy this book and you can look forward to real answers to questions like…

  • “What would happen if the Solar System was filled with soup out to Jupiter?”
  • “What if you were hanging on a helicopter blade by your hands and then someone turned it on?”
  • “Would there be any danger from standing next to a large object that was 0 Kelvin?”
  • “What if we somehow evaporated a solid block of iron on earth?”
  • “If the universe stopped expanding right now, how long would it take for a human to drive a car all the way to the edge of the universe?”
  • “How many pigeons would it require in order to lift the average person and a launch chair to the height of Australia’s Q1 skyscraper?”

…and there are plenty more where that came from! Of course, you can also expect lots of Munroe’s signature stick figure comics along the way to keep things more interesting visually.

Get the book in these formats: