*** What If? by Randall Munroe


What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions made me feel 20 years younger, when I had young children, and one in particular who could ask dozens of “Why”, “How”, and “What if” questions every day — expecting that parents would immediately provide detailed answers to how sewers work, what brains do when we sleep, and how life would be different if we had eight arms…

This book is written by a former NASA roboticist (come to think of it, that one child who asked lots of questions is now a roboticist, funny how life works!) who tackles a wide variety of scientific questions asked by the readers of his blog — using a lot of humor, silly stick-figure illustrations, and formidable math and physics equations. It’s great fun. Really! (Come on, don’t you want to know whether swimming in a nuclear fuel pool is a good idea?) Best read in small increments, I suppose, but I read it straight through.

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