What If? 2: Additional Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews

In 2014, Randall Munroe, the creator of the popular web comic XKCD released his first book,
“What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions”. The book used
Munroe’s background in physics and experience as a former NASA programmer to answer a
variety of theoretically possible scientific questions. For example, what if a major league pitcher
could throw a baseball at 99% the speed of light? Answer: Nuclear explosion. The book was
popular and paved the way for two other books, “How To?” and “Thing Explainer”. While
unique and interesting in their own way, neither reached the heights of “What If?”. Munroe has
now followed up with a sequel, “What If? 2: More Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd
Hypothetical Questions”. The novelty of “What If 2” is that all the questions answered within are
fan submitted questions. The effect of this is a book that feels much less focused than the original
but at the same time there’s a delight to the absolute chaos of the questions.
As you can imagine with reader-submitted questions, there is not a single unifying theme to the
hypotheticals. Topics include: could you fit all the world’s bananas into all the world’s
churches?; If the universe stopped expanding right now, how long would it take to drive across
it?; How many humans a day would a T-Rex needs to consume to live healthily? Though the
questions are generally silly, the subtitle doesn’t lie. Munroe treats every—well, almost
every—question with absolute seriousness, devoting pages to figuring out, for example, the
average metabolic rate of a T-Rex or the total volume of the world’s banana crop. Punctuating
each hypothetical are stick-figure illustrations of each scenario—Munroe’s specialty. These
drawings are frequently amusing and hold each mental exercise together.
“What If? 2” is a great book for people with big imaginations; the person in your life who is
always wondering, well, “what if?” Fans of Munroe’s previous books or the XKCD web comic
will also find more of what they love contained within its pages, it’s classic Randall Munroe.
“What If? 2” might even come in handy at holiday parties. It certain has plenty of conversation
starters—if you’re brave enough.

— JT Menard



An NPR Best Book of 2022

"The questions throughout What If? 2 are equal parts brilliant, gross, and wonderfully absurd and the answers are thorough, deeply researched, and great fun. . . . Science isn’t easy, but in Munroe’s capable hands, it surely can be fun." —TIME

The #1 New York Times bestselling author of What If? and How To answers more of the weirdest questions you never thought to ask

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.

About the Author

Randall Munroe is the author of the New York Times bestsellers What If? 2, How To, What If?, and Thing Explainer; the science question-and-answer blog What If?; and the popular web comic xkcd. A former NASA roboticist, he left the agency in 2006 to draw comics on the internet full time. He lives in Massachusetts.

Praise For…

Praise for What If? 2

“Delightful. . . Randall Munroe has made a career out of sharing his joy in science and engineering. . . . This book and its predecessor inspire us to believe that, even in a vast and mysterious universe, there’s a lot we can figure out with nothing but a sharp pencil, come basic scientific knowledge and a vivid imagination.” —The Wall Street Journal

"The questions throughout What If? 2 are equal parts brilliant, gross, and wonderfully absurd and the answers are thorough, deeply researched, and great fun. . . . Science isn’t easy, but in Munroe’s capable hands, it surely can be fun." —TIME

"Picking this book up now and then enlivens life by letting you briefly consider the effects of, say, putting an indestructible 20-meter-wide glass tube all the way down to the deepest part of the ocean. Plus, Munroe’s illustrations turn stick figures and flowcharts into the stuff of existential hilarity." —NPR 

"Entertaining. . . . combines Munroe’s true research and truly funny prose with his signature stick-figure illustrations." —The Washington Post

"Perfect if you enjoy it when stuffy figures of authority crack a smile. Or if you like it when black holes form. That happens a lot." —Newsweek

"One of my favorite books of the year." —Tim Harford, Financial Times

"It's an absolute delight! It's the coolest way to learn how the world actually works." —Hank Green (on the Dear Hank & John podcast) 

“A delight for science geeks with a penchant for oddball thought experiments.” —Kirkus

Praise for Randall Munroe and What If?

“Randall Munroe is a national treasure.” —Phil Plait
“Extreme astrophysics and indecipherable chemistry have rarely been this clearly explained or this consistently hilarious.” —Entertainment Weekly “10 Best Nonfiction Books of the Year”

“Consistently fascinating and entertaining...Munroe leavens the hard science with whimsical touches... An illuminating handbook of methods of reasoning.” —Wall Street Journal

“It’s fun to watch as Munroe tackles each question and examines every possible complication with nerdy and methodical aplomb.... The delightfully demented What If? is the most fun you can have with math and science, short of becoming your own evil genius.” —Boston Globe

Product Details
ISBN: 9780525537113
ISBN-10: 0525537112
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Publication Date: September 13th, 2022
Pages: 368
Language: English