XKCD web comic creator Randall Munroe answers fan-submitted questions with science and wit. What If? is a collection of the best Q&As from his blog. If you think the questions are funny (see below for some of my favorites), the answers are well-researched (i.e. computer simulations, scholarly article research, and consultations with nuclear reactor operators), presented in a clear manner perfect for intelligent non-scientists, and are, of course, hilarious [citation – my incessant giggling].

  • Is it possible to build a jetpack using downward firing machine guns?
  • How dangerous is it, really, to be in a swimming pool in a thunderstorm?
  • What would happen if you were to gather a mole (unit of measurement) of moles (the small furry critter) in one place?
  • How much Force power can Yoda output?
  • How fast would a human have to run in order to be cut in half at the bellybutton by a cheese-cutting wire?

The answers often culminate in either annihilation of all humans on Earth, or at least lots of fire. DESTRUCTION! Science is fun, and What If? captures the imagination by treating most questions are worthy of an answer, even if they are ridiculous. However, Randall does refuse to answer a series of “weird and worrying questions”. (There are limits people.)

Recommended for all fans of the ridiculous. And both self-proclaimed and closet nerds alike.

“Maybe civilization will collapse, we’ll all succumb to disease and famine, and the last of us will be eaten by cats. Maybe we’ll all be killed by nanobots hours after you read this sentence. There’s no way to know.”