Books : reviews

Randall Munroe.
xkcd volume 0.
Breadpig. 2009

rating : 2 : great stuff
review : 25 July 2010

For those of you not following the thrice-weekly webcomic of "romance, sarcasm, math, and language", you have a treat in store, as you get to discover the wonder that is xkcd. For those of you who are following it, you have a treat in store, as you get to experience it again. This is a selection of the strips, in all their glorious clever, witty lunacy. With carefully added hovertext.

So, it doesn't have all the strips, which is a shame. But there will hopefully be further volumes. This is, of course, volume 0. I was discussing with my other half (who got me this for my birthday) how subsequent volumes should be numbered. Binary? To obvious. Hex? Too long until it became clear what was going on. We decided that base 3 was clearly the right approach. Then I noticed the page numbering inside... Proof that we are the right demographic!

Randall Munroe.
What If?.
John Murray. 2014

From the creator of the wildly popular xkcd, What If answers important questions you probably never thought to ask.

Millions visit each week to read Randall Munroe's iconic webcomic. Fans ask him a lot of strange questions.
• How fast can you hit a speed bump, driving, and live?
• What would happen if someone's DNA vanished?
• How many humans would a T Rex rampaging through New York need to eat a day?

In pursuit of answers, he runs computer simulations, digs through declassified military research memos, consults with nuclear-reactor operators, times scenes from Star Wars with a stopwatch, calls his mother, and Googles some very freaky-looking animals. This book features the most popular questions from the blog, but many (51 per cent!) are new.

When Randall Munroe is your guide, science gets really weird really fast. Near-light-speed baseball pitches can level entire city blocks. A mole of moles can suffocate the planet in a blanket of meat. Yoda can use the Force to recharge his electric-model Smart Car. Munroe's hilarious and compelling answers explain everything from the odds of meeting your soulmate to the many ways you could die while building a periodic table out of the actual elements. Welcome to the strange world of What If.