Book Review: “What If?” by Randall Munroe

Lots of serious scientific answers to absurd hypothetical questions. Some are intriguing but most are overly hypothetical, borderline silly and the answers were overly thought out or overkill and I wish the questions were more plausible.

Some of the “good” questions that have good answers:
1. Swimming in typical spent nuclear fuel pool. I was surprised that you would come out OK as radiation drop to half strength every 7mm of water. But you’d probably die from the gunshot wounds by the security.

2. Some of the elements on the bottom of the periodic table are so radioactive and so transitory that a nuclear explosion would occur if you just collection a small portion of it.

3. A mole (unit of measurements) is roughly 6×10^23. It’s a huge number. A mole of moles (animal) could mean a size bigger than the moon.

4. If every human somehow simply disappear, the last artificial light could be coming off from our nuclear waste deep in concrete vaults.

5. All the physical space of storage on the Internet can be contained in just one oil tanker. This speaks to the amazing density of the harddisk.

6. Dropping a piece of steak from the orbital distance from earth would char just the surface but not cooked throughout due to the cold temperature. Inside the steak it would still be frozen or cold.

7. You can’t eliminate the common cold by forcing everyone on earth to be quarantined from one another for a week, because not all people have healthy immunity system to rid themselves of the rhinovirus.

8. Yoda can produced ~19.2KW of power, based on his ability to lift an X-wing Skywalker vehicle from the swamp. Impressive.

9. There is not enough energy to move the entire current human population off-planet. No, it would probably destroy the planet.

10. Self-fertilization: too much inbreeding could have a very high probability of contracting spinal muscular atrophy. A case in point is King Charles II of Spain, who’s got an inbreeding coefficient worst than a child of two siblings. Yikes!

11. When will Facebook contains more dead people profiles than living ones? ~2065.

12. Richter scale can go negative. You get -8 when a grain of fine sand fall onto the pile at the bottom of hourglass.

So there are lots of useless what-if questions that author attempts to answer with great efforts. The questions make good brain teasers and even good interview questions and it’s all they’re going to serve and the author.