In his What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions author Randall Munroe goes beyond standard ricoculous queries, like What if I was in a free falling elevator but jumped in the air at the exact moment the car impacted the bottom of its shaft? Would I live? and What if I tripped Tom Brady so he fell onto the subway tracks, but then jumped down and rescued him in the nick of time? Would Gisele sleep with me as payment in kind? Instead the former NASA roboticist and creator of the science/tech/language/love webcomic xkcd tackles some of the stranger questions his fans have posed to him over the years:
- What if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90 percent the speed of light?
- How fast can you hit a speed bump while driving and live?
- If there was a robot apocalypse, how long would humanity last?
- How close would you have to be to a supernova to get a lethal dose of neutrino radiation?
- If you suddenly began rising steadily at 1 foot per second, how exactly would you die?
With the help of computer simulations, declassified military research, mathematical equations, and the minds of nuclear reactor operators Munroe uses What If? to answer these questions literally and in great detail. Signature xkcd comics join the absurdly scientific pages as well. Pages that, by the way, mostly predict the total decimation of humankind, or at minimum a giant explosion.
Want to know if AK-47s could be used to power a jetpack? What If? calculates the guns' thrust-to-weight ratio to provide the answer (with enough of them, yes.) And the baseball pitched near the speed of light? Munroe has determined that due to the “constant fusion at the front of the ball, everything within roughly a mile of the park would be leveled.”