What If? by Randall Munroe

Friday February 7, 2020

I read this after enjoying How To by the same author. This one is more directly from the blog, which I had only read occasionally. It's laugh-out-loud funny physics nerdery.

Even when it isn't funny, it explains things in ways that provide quick understanding:

"Chemotherapy drugs are blunt instruments. Some are more precisely targeted than others, but many simply interrupt cell division in general. The reason that this selectively kills cancer cells, instead of harming the patient and the cancer equally, is that cancer cells are dividing all the time, whereas most normal cells divide only occasionally." (page 134)

My only gripe is this apparent inconsistency:

"Q. How hard would a puck have to be shot to be able to knock the goalie himself backward into the net? A. This can't really happen." (page 112)

"If it's going fast enough, a feather can absolutely knock you over." page 177

But in general the book seems basically correct in its wild order-of-magnitude flights of fancy, and it's a darn good time.

What If? cover