*The questions in these sections are some of the strangest the author has received. In response, the author provides a humorous cartoon to both answer and acknowledge the absurdity of these questions. These questions are not covered in the following summary as the responses are purely visual.
This review of What If: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe provides a chapter by chapter detailed summary followed by an analysis and critique of the strengths and weaknesses of the book.
The main theme explored in the book is how we can use science as a way to answer some of life's strangest and most unanswerable questions. Using data gathered from various sources such as clinical studies,scientific journal articles, and interviews with top scientific and analytical minds, the author is able to a provide answers to his audience's most absurd questions.
The central thesis of the work is that any question humans have ever had about the way the world works or possible ramifications if the world stopped working the way we expect it to can all be answered through scientific means. Munroe takes each question from his audience and thoroughly examines it-mostly reserving judgement-and attempts to find the best answer possible. In some cases, he provides several different answers, and in others even provides answers to questions that the audience did not ask, but are related to the subject at hand. What makes his responses unique is that he relies on humor (and cartoons) to explain even the most difficult concepts and this allows for his answers to be easily understood by all of his audience, even those with no scientific background.
Randall Munroe is the writer and creator of the web comic xkcd and has written a previous book of the same title. He worked at NASA as a roboticist until October of 2006 when he became a professional web comic artist full time. What If? is the result of his popular web comic and a project inspired by it where he asked users to post absurd math and physics related questions. He currently resides in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
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