Author Randall Munroe has won the hearts of millions of smart people with his unique mixture of humor, sensitivity, absurdism, and hard science. Some of his comics are pretty difficult to understand, even for people with some technical education, leading to the creation of the site ExplainXKCD, where readers help each other figure out the more difficult references.
Reverse Polish notation, for instance, isn’t well known even among software developers, though Mr. Munroe apparently thinks its funny as hell. He’s also fond of making graphs – for instance, of when people think New Year’s actually occurs, or a graph showing how graphs work. Also, very important: you need to hover your cursor over each cartoon to see the alt text. Many of the jokes don’t make much sense without these notes, while all of them are funnier with them.
What If? is, however, probably the most fun to read.
In this book, Mr. Munroe turns his wacky sense of humor, scientific knowledge, and all-around good-guy-ness to all manner of things that don’t make sense.
What if everyone in China jumped at the same time?
Would it be a good idea to tie one end of a really long rope to the moon, and why isn’t it?
Numerous questions like these are discussed in this book, not in total seriousness but with quite a lot of scientific rigor. Mr. Munroe has been known to do extensive research on each, run computer simulations if necessary, talk to experts in his huge fan base, and make inappropriate jokes at every opportunity.
So, if you have any kind of geek in your life (or you’ll admit to being one), buy this book. I guarantee you that you’ll laugh, you might cry, and you will learn several things that you’ve never thought about before.