Randall Munroe is a bit of a genius and hopefully he doesn’t see this because I’d be embarrassed to have him hear me say it. 

He’s one of the greatest science explainers of my generation…possibly the greatest. He does it not by explaining science and math and calculus and biology for the sake of understanding it, but by seeking answers. 

And look, that’s why we created biology and calculus and chemistry anyhow. So by searching for answers to really WEIRD questions. Questoins like “Can I build a jetpack out of machine guns” (surprisingly yes, but don’t) and “How much space would all of Google take up if it was on punch cards” (it would bury New England to the height of several kilometers.) And “What would happen if the Earth just stopped spinning but the atmosphere kept moving” (everyone would die, some people less slowly than others.)

To find these answers, Randall does intense amounts of research and also lots and lots of math.

In his “What If?” column he uses this marvelous toolbox that we’ve developed over the last 100,000 years of being a species in such exciting ways that you don’t even know how smart you’re getting as you read it. 

Now he’s turned “What if?” into a book and it is SO MUCH FUN. It’s hilarious and fascinating and shows the kind of obsession with the universe that I find infectious. I’ve been devouring it since I got my copy.

I’ve flown out to San Francisco to interview Randall on the Vlogbrothers channel (Colbert just did an interview with him last week so I guess I’m in good company.) His understanding of the world is extremely deep so he’s able to share only the bits that are either hilarious or fascinating. I’m nervous to spend a bunch of time with him, but very excited to bring his work (I hope) to more people and ideally help sell some copies of his book (which I’m sure is doing just fine without me.)

The Hangout starts in about two hours and I’m gonna go hang out in the chat for it right now


NO. 13: What if? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe

"What if everyone only had one soulmate? What would happen if the moon went away? If there was a robot apocalypse, how long would humanity last?"

In 2005, Randall Munroe departed from NASA and created the highly popular webcomic site entitled xkcd. Each week fans poured in to take a peek at his hilarious stick-figure drawings about science, technology, sarcasm and love. Eventually Munroe created a new section - What If - where he answers bizarre questions poured in from readers: If your cells suddenly lost the power to divide, how long would you survive? What if everyone only had one soulmate? What would happen if the moon went away? If there was a robot apocalypse, how long would humanity last? What if? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions is an assemblage of the best entries intertwined with new witty answers to apocalyptic and outlandish circumstances.

If you are a little nerdy like us, this book will be your source of entertainment. Munroe is a master of explaining complex subjects simply, don’t get us wrong here, there is substantial science in this book, but nothing exponentially difficult. We are thoroughly impressed by Munroe’s research: equations, computer simulations, declassified military research memes and his hilarious xkcd comics! And let’s not forget, there’s astronomical value in reading a funny book or a blog by a former NASA roboticist. Aside from giving you a belly ache from laugher, What If? gives you a sense of accomplishment and elevated intelligence. Humor and intelligence — the ultimate combination. Soon you will learn that we are all fascinated by potential explosions and the extinction of humanity. The last piece of advice we can give you comes from Munroe himself:

“Do not try any of this at home. The author of this book is an Internet cartoonist, not a health or safety expert. He likes it when things catch fire or explode, which means he does not have your best interests in mind. The publisher and the author disclaim responsibility for any adverse effects resulting, directly or indirectly, from information contained in this book.” 

Get the book here

FREE Amazon Kindle app to read on most devices.

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More actual results: ‘Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You [are the best. The best thing ever]’, ‘Revenge is a dish best served [by a group of people in my room]’, and ‘They may take our lives, but they’ll never take our [money].’

iOS Keyboard [explained]

A new study finds that if you give rats a cell phone and a lever they can push to improve the signal, the rats will chew on the cell phone until it breaks and your research supervisors will start to ask some questions about your grant money.


Now that my half-sleeve is almost complete, I wanted to share it and the story behind it.

I’ve been reading obsessively since I was about 3-years-old, and I’ve been collecting quotes for as long as I can remember. I always have a hard time explaining myself and especially my feelings, it’s hard for me to find my own words, so I’ve been using other people’s words (i.e. quotes). About 4-5 years ago I had this idea for a full-sleeve tattoo. I wanted to turn my arm into a page from a book. There would be paragraphs, and little sketches and notes. It would look like a page from a second hand (note)book. This idea evolved over the years and about 7 months ago I finally got started.

The sentences in these paragraphs are all quoted from different people, and I created this collage myself. My own holy scripture. (“Make your own Bible. Select and collect all the words and sentences that in all your readings have been to you like the blast of a trumpet.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson)

Here is the full text:

From the stories I expected the world to be sad, and it was. And I expected it to be wonderful. It was. Every day I discover more and more beautiful things. It’s enough to drive one mad. I have such a desire to do everything, my head is bursting with it. Somewhere something incredible is waiting to be known. If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is. I don’t know what’s waiting for us, but I hope one day we’re ready for it.

I am in the middle of growing up and into myself. I have immortal longings in me. Sometimes I can hear my bones straining under the weight of all the lives I am not living. He said it’s all in your head, and I said, so’s everything - but he didn’t get it. If life were as simple as one-line poetry, black coffee, pressing flowers between the pages; I might find it easier to breathe. Sometimes my hands shake, but it’s okay because sometimes the whole Earth does too. I’d rather die terrified than live forever. If the universe, Big Bang and black holes and all, still dares to dream, then so will I. But not all dark places need light, I have to remember that. Mistakes aren’t always regrets. Sanity is a cozy lie. There’s beauty in the breakdown.

There will be two more paragraphs, I’m almost done with the final one, but not the third. It’s still a work in progress, but I know what the last line is going to be: "One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple."

I have a coffee cup stain around my shoulder, the Deathly Hallows symbol between the first two paragraphs, and the silhoutte of Night Vale around my arm. I will be getting 3 maybe 4 more things and then my half-sleeve will be complete. Then there will be a few touch-ups.

These quotes are from: Randall Munroe (XKCD), Claude Monet, Carl Sagan, Kurt Vonnegut, Ashli Wood, Sabrina Ward Harrison, William Shakespeare, Jonathan Safran Foer, Brian Andreas (StoryPeople), Tired Foxes, Jenna, Joey Comeau (A Softer World) (x2), Fernanda, Jeanette Winterson, Susan Sontag, Imogen Heap.

Artist: Cansu Olga -  Adana/ TURKEY