When in need of a momentary diversion I have been clicking a link to xkcd.com where Randall Munroe provides me with a smart daily cartoon inspired by math, science and our basic humanity. They make me feel smart and make me smile and usually inspire some lateral thinking. I commended it to a friend recently saying that it was a smart time waster. In reply I got “smart time waster #oxymoron” That would be an oxymoron like bug-free software, working vacation. Nice.
Now Munroe has published a book of his “Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions.” I showed up at his book tour event in NYC’s Union Square. My mistake – I only got there a half hour ahead of schedule and the room was full – and a long long line of people was snaking around Barnes and Noble hoping at least to get a signed copy. I am not good at this kind of fandom so we went instead for a cocktail at the Sheltering Sky, a rooftop bar in Williamsburg. #priorities.
I do most heartily recommend What If? which has thorough, detailed and far reaching answers to questions such as “How quickly would the oceans drain if a circular portal 10 meters in radius leading into space were created at the bottom of Challenger Deep, the deepest spot in the ocean? How would the Earth change as the water was being drained?”
And “If everyone on the planet stayed away from each other for a couple of weeks, wouldn’t the common cold be wiped out?”
And “How many unique English tweets are possible? How long would it take for the population of the world to read them all out loud?”
If you are at all curious about the world you will love this book It’s brilliant. But do bear in mind this cartoon from xkcd.