On Our Bookshelves: What If?
Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions


BOOK: What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions

AUTHOR: Randall Munroe



This book is exactly what it says it is. If you’ve ever wondered how close you would have to be to a supernova to get a lethal dose of neutrino radiation, or what would happen if lightening stuck a bullet in midair, or, if every human being somehow disappeared from the Earth, how long the artificial light would last…this book is for you. You will get a detailed, erudite, delightfully nerdy answer to these and many more questions. If this sounds appealing and you are not yet familiar with Randall Munroe’s webcomic xkcd, and his particular blend of science and entertainment, you are in for both a treat and a learning experience.

If you think the entire premise of this book is absolutely ludicrous, and a waste of your time, you are most likely correct on both points. (But you may wish to buy a copy, for that smart friend of yours with the sense of humor you have never quite figured out.)


RATING (one to five whistles, with five being the best): Splitting the difference – 3 Whistles





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Blue Highways, William Least Heat-Moon

Bonjour Tristesse, Francoise Sagan

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Burmese Days, George Orwell

Cannery Row, John Steinbeck

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Mother Night, Kurt Vonnegut

Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro

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The Annotated Alice: The Definitive Ed., Lewis Carroll & Martin Gardner (with original illustrations by John Tenniel)

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The Love Affairs Of Nathaniel P., Adelle Waldman

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Up At The Villa, W. Somerset Maugham


Lead-In Image Courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt


Laura LaVelle is an attorney and writer who lives in Connecticut, in a not quite 100-year-old house, along with her husband, two daughters, and a cockatiel.

Laura can be contacted at laura@newswhistle.com