Top positive review
4 November 2018
This book opens with the best disclaimer I have ever seen:
"Do not try any of this at home. The author of this book is an Internet cartoonist, not a health or safety expert. He likes it when things catch fire or explode, which means he does not have your best interests in mind. The publisher and the author disclaim responsibility for any adverse effects resulting, directly or indirectly, from information contained in this book."
That disclaimer really sets the tone for this fun book about science: Dangerous ideas ahead, folks! Don't get too close -- these things could kill ya!
Randall Munroe used to work at NASA, and now he creates the webcomic XKCD (which sounds less stressful than the NASA gig). On his website, he takes "absurd hypothetical questions" from readers and tries to answer some of them. Here are some of my favorite questions in this book:
What would happen if everyone on Earth stood as close to each other as they could and jumped, everyone landing on the ground at the same instant?
If every human somehow simply disappeared from the face of the Earth, how long would it be before the last artificial light source would go out?
How long could a nuclear submarine last in orbit?
From what height would you need to drop a steak for it to be cooked when it hit the ground?
If everyone on the planet stayed away from each other for a couple of weeks, wouldn't the common cold be wiped out?
Which US state is actually flown over the most?
Is there enough energy to move the entire current human population off-planet?
How high can a human throw something?
How fast can you hit a speed bump while driving and live?
When, if ever, will the bandwidth of the Internet surpass that of FedEx?
How quickly would the oceans drain if a circular portal 10 meters in radius leading into space were created at the bottom of Challenger Deep, the deepest spot in the ocean? How would the Earth change as the water was being drained?
How many Lego bricks would it take to build a bridge capable of carrying traffic from London to New York? Have that many Lego bricks been manufactured?
What would happen to the Earth if the Sun suddenly switched off?
If you are interested to know any of the answers to those questions, this book is for you! What made this so much fun, aside from the ridiculous questions, is Munroe's sense of humor. Several times I laughed out loud at his drawings and his answers, which is not something that usually happens when I'm reading about science. Oh, and be sure to read his footnotes, which have even more jokes.
I think this book would be a great gift for kids who love to ask crazy questions about how the world works. I think I would have loved it when I was 10.