Randall Munroe


What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions (2014)



What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions (2014)

I adore xkcd.

It’s often funny, sometimes enthralling, and almost always makes you think. So when Randall Munroe wrote a book based upon his What If answers, I snatched it up.

Because: Randall Munroe.

But I bought the actual physical book, so it sat around collecting dust. So I got the ebook when it went on sale, and THAT version I finally read.

So what is What If? It’s the author answering some of the many hypothetical questions that were sent to him. And sharing some of the questions he did NOT answer.

So what about the questions he did answer?

Q. What would happen if you made a periodic table out of cube-shaped bricks, where each brick was made of the corresponding element?

He uses actual science to (essentially) tell you what a terrible idea your question would be.

The inert argon is heavier than air, so it would just spread out and cover the ground. Don’t worry about the argon. You have bigger problems.

There’s no material safety data sheet for astatine. If there were, it would just be the word “NO” scrawled over and over in charred blood.

The explosion would be just the right size to maximize the amount of paperwork your lab would face. If the explosion were smaller, you could potentially cover it up. If it were larger, there would be no one left in the city to submit paperwork to.


Nobody has ever lost all their DNA, [2]

2 I don’t have a citation for this, but I feel like we would have heard about it.


The world is big,[ citation needed] but there are a lot of people.[ citation needed]

It cracked me up every time I saw that.

But most of all, remember this:

I am a guy who draws pictures on the Internet. I like it when things catch fire and explode, which means I do not have your best interests in mind.

This book is marvelous and delightful and I fully admit there were bits that went over my head, but I don’t care.
Rating: 10/10

Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt