As the self-designated curator of the Elia-Loi library, I added Randall Munroe’s What If to our collection using the promotional credit I received from Amazon Prime Day. The full title is What If: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions. Awesome. Just the type of coffee-table book our nerdy home needs.

How I Came Across the Title

Doing graduate school in engineering warrants familiarity with comic strips such as PHD comics and xkcd. Randall Munroe is the creator of xkcd. One day, my labmate Ruth invited me to see Munroe’s talk during his Princeton visit. I didn’t remember much from the talk, but it was a fun night.


Munroe is a NASA engineer turned full-time comic artist. Last year he gave an entertaining TED talk, which you can watch below. Now, we’re a pair of nerds in my home, but Munroe is a nerd nerd (watch the video). And that’s cool.

I learned about his book from his interview with Colbert. Yes, I do get a lot of reading ideas from fake news shows…


Thoughts on the Book

Pure fun. It’s funny and nerdy—I love it! The first question he answers in the book is, What would happen if the Earth and all terrestrial objects suddenly stopped spinning, but the atmosphere retained its velocity? I read this chapter at the bookstore and I was pretty much hooked. Try reading it yourself at your local bookstore!


In another chapter, he shows the mathematical absurdity of thinking that everyone only has one soul mate. Of course, the book entertains with his comic drawings too.


The Trail

I have a few science-related books on my list, but the one I am most looking forward to is Applied Minds: How Engineers Think, to be released in August.



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