The "What-If?" Book

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Djehutynakht
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The "What-If?" Book

Postby Djehutynakht » Fri Mar 14, 2014 6:55 am UTC

What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions (this title was too long to fit in the subject line).

9780544272996_p0_v1_s260x420.jpg
9780544272996_p0_v1_s260x420.jpg (14.02 KiB) Viewed 24145 times


What If? was released on September 2nd.


Besides what's already on the web, the new book contains:

-Particularly interesting questions with more time/effort devoted to answering them
-Revisions and updates to some existing articles
-Randall's personal list of weirdest submitted questions


Because this new book contains original and updated What If? information, I figured it was deserving of its own thread for discussion.

Feel free to discuss.
Last edited by Felstaff on Wed Oct 15, 2014 12:59 pm UTC, edited 3 times in total.
Reason: Stickying this for stickiness purposes. This sticky is now stickied.

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Re: The "What-If?" Book

Postby sudo make me a username » Fri Mar 14, 2014 11:34 am UTC

AUTO BUY

I love xkcd, and what-if in particular. I bought xkcd:volume 0 relatively recently and loved it. I was so excited to see the message in the main xkcd site announcing this. I'm 100% sure I'll buy this one (the cover is awesome BTW). I just don't know whether to pre-order it. It's my birthday, maybe I can get someone to preorder it for me as a gift.
I wonder if there will be riddles again - I hope so, I missed the first book's frenzy and it seems awesome. And maybe it'll bring a meetup as well. Probably half a globe away from me but I can hope...

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Re: The "What-If?" Book

Postby Whizbang » Fri Mar 14, 2014 2:13 pm UTC

Will it only be available on the xkcd store, or can I put it on my Amazon wishlist? I tend to fill my wishlist with inexpensive things that I really want, and let people know to buy from it for any birthdays or holidays.


**Edit***
Nevermind. It says right on the What If? Book page that it will be sold on Amazon.

** Edited to add ***
This made me do this:

Image

Spoiler:
Extrapolating What If.png

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Djehutynakht
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Re: The "What-If?" Book

Postby Djehutynakht » Fri Mar 14, 2014 6:17 pm UTC

Clever

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Re: The "What-If?" Book

Postby larsgj » Sat Mar 15, 2014 2:11 pm UTC

I wonder what the difference between "US" and "UK & Commonwealth" versions are. There's a 16 page difference according to Amazon.

Any guesses?

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Re: The "What-If?" Book

Postby Angua » Sat Mar 15, 2014 3:00 pm UTC

All those extra letters.
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Re: The "What-If?" Book

Postby Scott Auld » Tue Mar 18, 2014 5:55 pm UTC

So does this mean we don't get a new What-If today?

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Re: The "What-If?" Book

Postby cellocgw » Tue Mar 18, 2014 6:13 pm UTC

Scott Auld wrote:So does this mean we don't get a new What-If today?



Obligatory: Wait For It.
(PS it's already up)
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Re: The "What-If?" Book

Postby Scott Auld » Wed Mar 19, 2014 4:03 pm UTC

Yay nice
Wasn't there for me when I posted earlier
Gotta get my What If fix

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Re: The "What-If?" Book

Postby stickler » Thu Mar 20, 2014 8:35 am UTC

I want to know what the differences are between the Commonwealth and US versions. Perhaps it's like the pokemon red/blue thing.

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Re: The "What-If?" Book

Postby Red Hal » Fri Mar 21, 2014 8:56 am UTC

Angua already answered that though there may be some balancing out:
US vs Commonwealth
Color -> Colour
Esophagus -> Oesophagus
Elevator -> Lift
Iraqi Tank -> British Armoured Personnel Carrier

That kind of thing ...
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Re: The "What-If?" Book

Postby stickler » Fri Mar 21, 2014 4:47 pm UTC

OK, I should be more observant.

I'm not convinced, we don't have enough exta letters to make a difference to length. Welsh on the other hand...

Anyway most Brits can read 'American' without noticing.

I hope it's not 16 pages of tea jokes. That would get exteamely annoying.

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Re: The "What-If?" Book

Postby Copper Bezel » Sat Mar 22, 2014 8:09 pm UTC

where is that like button
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Also recommended...

Postby davidhbrown » Sun Jun 22, 2014 9:08 pm UTC

So, I was on Amazon to feed my printer and I saw it was recommending I should buy Mario Cart 8. This made very little sense, so I clicked "Why recommended?":
Recommended for you...
ImageMario Kart 8 - Nintendo Wii U
by Nintendo (May 30, 2014)
Platform: Nintendo Wii U
In Stock
Because you purchased...
ImageWhat If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions (Hardcover)
by Randall Munroe (Author)

Should it have been recommending something more like The Princeton Companion to Mathematics or at least the new Cosmos videos? Come on, guys ;-)

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cyanyoshi
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Re: The "What-If?" Book

Postby cyanyoshi » Wed Jun 25, 2014 8:32 pm UTC

Maybe it's because Randall has a thing with Mario Kart. Honestly, I would recommend Mario Kart 8 for everyone, xkcd fans included!

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Re: The "What-If?" Book

Postby snoopy369 » Fri Jun 27, 2014 5:00 am UTC

Likely the page difference has to do with the printer (not the little thing in your home office, but the company that makes the book) and whomever does the text layout (could be Randall, could be his publisher). In addition to possible changes in the layout, font, font size, etc., the printer may have a different default sheaf size (which leads to extra pages in the book!), different margins, or even a different page size.

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Re: The "What-If?" Book

Postby dan_dassow » Sat Jul 12, 2014 2:24 am UTC

I was pleasantly surprised to see Randall's book advertised by Amazon.com on IMDb.

The ad appeared on this page and is likely to be a context sensitive ad.

Poll Suggestion: Favorite Planet of the Apes Movie!
http://www.imdb.com/list/ls070207666/?publish=save
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Re: The "What-If?" Book

Postby adavies42 » Tue Sep 02, 2014 2:46 pm UTC

ob 977: what projection is the map?

i'm thinking Miller.

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Re: The "What-If?" Book

Postby krkeegan » Tue Sep 02, 2014 4:48 pm UTC

Received my book yesterday and spent much of the night reading it. The what-if series really works well in a book form. Some of the Alt-Text has been left out, but in other cases it is just placed as a caption. I also find it easier to be able to quickly review a footnote written at the bottom.

All in all, so far it is awesome. Much thicker than I had expected. Great work Randal!

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Re: The "What-If?" Book

Postby Kalabalik » Tue Sep 02, 2014 6:36 pm UTC

I want this book in English and with SI/metric units. Which edition should I buy, if any?

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Re: The "What-If?" Book

Postby sirkha » Tue Sep 02, 2014 9:13 pm UTC

Got mine in the mail, today, and I pretty much can't stop giggling. On page 35, though, Ammonia is listed as an element?

--J Kha

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Re: The "What-If?" Book

Postby sykes1024 » Tue Sep 02, 2014 11:58 pm UTC

sirkha wrote:Got mine in the mail, today, and I pretty much can't stop giggling. On page 35, though, Ammonia is listed as an element?

--J Kha

I noticed this too and came looking for somewhere to share, but I guess I was beaten to it. Made me double take and have to go look it up to double-check that I hadn't just imagined learning that it was most definitely a compound and not an element.

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Re: The "What-If?" Book

Postby Scars Unseen » Wed Sep 03, 2014 3:13 am UTC

Amazon just notified me that they shipped my copy. Look forward to reading it when it arrives next week(everything takes at least a week to get to me out here).

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Re: The "What-If?" Book

Postby exeunter » Wed Sep 03, 2014 3:43 am UTC

Mr. Munroe - what happened to your equation on p.176? Your editors are slacking...
wZzhDVN (Small).jpg

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Re: The "What-If?" Book

Postby Adacore » Wed Sep 03, 2014 7:35 am UTC

It's the #1 top seller on Amazon at the moment. I don't know how many sales that equates to, but presumably more than none.

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Re: The "What-If?" Book

Postby Alsadius » Wed Sep 03, 2014 3:57 pm UTC

Yeah, I noticed a few rather glaring editing errors. Tsk tsk, publishing house. (Though listing ammonia as an element, I'm blaming Randall for that)

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Re: The "What-If?" Book

Postby otisjf » Wed Sep 03, 2014 4:08 pm UTC

Congrats on getting the book out! I have been a fan of both the comic and the 'What if...?' for some time. It is even better than the old Marvel comics. :) I'll be getting my copy soon.

I am a little surprised I don't see it mentioned here about you appearing on the Colbert Report tonight (9/3/2014). I know that I will be watching. I'm am really glad to hear that you are getting that level of publicity for the book. I can only assume that Stephen or some of his producers or writers are a fan.

I just wanted to say congratulations on getting published on this project and I hope that you had fun on the show!

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Re: The "What-If?" Book

Postby PinkShinyRose » Wed Sep 03, 2014 6:59 pm UTC

Kalabalik wrote:I want this book in English and with SI/metric units. Which edition should I buy, if any?

I think the options in English are the regular edition and the UK and Commonwealth edition. As far as I can tell from Amazons spoilers the UK and Commonwealth edition uses °C as opposed to °F, even though it uses MPH.

I'm also wondering about the other differences though, and which one to buy. Could any of the current bookowners compare their copy to the spoilers for the UK and Commonwealth edition? It did use atomize as opposed to atomise.

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Re: The "What-If?" Book

Postby bachaddict » Wed Sep 03, 2014 10:08 pm UTC

How many exclusive questions are in the book?
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Re: The "What-If?" Book

Postby Moose Anus » Thu Sep 04, 2014 4:12 pm UTC

The Colbert Report interview is here starting at 14:50.
Lemonade? ...Aww, ok.

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Re: The "What-If?" Book

Postby Xenomortis » Thu Sep 04, 2014 4:16 pm UTC

PinkShinyRose wrote:
Kalabalik wrote:I want this book in English and with SI/metric units. Which edition should I buy, if any?

I think the options in English are the regular edition and the UK and Commonwealth edition. As far as I can tell from Amazons spoilers the UK and Commonwealth edition uses °C as opposed to °F, even though it uses MPH.

MPH is standard in the UK (we still use miles and yards on the road).
Can't speak for the rest of the Commonwealth.
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Re: The "What-If?" Book

Postby Evadman » Thu Sep 04, 2014 7:33 pm UTC

exeunter wrote:Mr. Munroe - what happened to your equation on p.176? Your editors are slacking...
Spoiler:
wZzhDVN (Small).jpg


I came for something else on that same page because it annoyed my OCD. The part above that picture talks about 4 Sieverts being the lethal level (which IIRC is the LD50) but then the math is done on 5 Sieverts. I also read the 'ammonia is an element' and got confused as to what group of the periodic table I forgot existed.

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Re: The "What-If?" Book

Postby mathmannix » Thu Sep 04, 2014 8:44 pm UTC

If you need a good editing team, just ask the internet. We're always happy to fix mistakes.
I hear velociraptor tastes like chicken.

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Re: The "What-If?" Book

Postby dan_dassow » Thu Sep 04, 2014 10:21 pm UTC

Great tweet from Cory Doctorow (@doctorow)
For the record, I'm loving #XKCD What If: "Dear Abby for Mad Scientists" http://t.co/H1buBTNlwE" /pls RT! #review http://t.co/E7yMvgv7Oh

Re-tweeted by Neil Gaiman (@neilhimself) September 2, 2014

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Re: The "What-If?" Book

Postby Djehutynakht » Fri Sep 05, 2014 5:21 am UTC

....I'm actually kinda curious about the second one now, but that's my reaction too essentially.

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Re: The "What-If?" Book

Postby Hamsvlekiss » Fri Sep 05, 2014 8:42 am UTC

The book's been awesome so far, but . . .

Self-fertilization is not the same thing as parthenogenesis. That is all.

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Re: The "What-If?" Book

Postby Nickolas » Fri Sep 05, 2014 8:45 am UTC

I got my copy of what if? in the mail today and read it through in one sitting. Just like the column, it's composed of that eutectic mixture of plausible science and patent absurdity that tickles and teaches. Like some of the other commenters, though, I was ... taken aback ... by what seemed to me to be a fair number of obvious editing errors.

Maybe I'm just terribly old-fashioned, but my expectation for a $24 book from a mass market publisher is that it be polished and largely free from defect. Though I would like to stress I found the book entertaining, worth the money, and will recommend it to friends, that particular expectation of editing quality definitely wasn't met.

For example:

  • pg. 35 — Ammonia is listed as an element!
  • pg. 164 — The first instance of "CON" should be "INT".
  • pg. 175 — "neutrino steam" should be "neutrino stream".
  • pg.175 — ln (x)e is weird notation that wouldn't be used by any mathematician. Did Randall mean lne x or ln xe?

    That is, (ln x)e or ln (xe)? In, say, Mathematica code, Log[x]^e is makes sense (that is, it's well-defined and there aren't any superfluous symbols), but the formula as written in the book is just jarring and hard to interpret, as the parentheses are actually entirely meaningless, yet presumably Randall intended for them to have meaning. (Randall probably meant lne x because it has the more complicated derivative, but let's not make assumptions and instead commit to just writing Good Math.)

  • pg. 176 — The parentheses in a formula are replaced by weird, tall rectangles with lines in them.
  • pg. 218 — "Mxyztplk" should be "Mxyzptlk".
  • pg. 234 — "1 in 1000,000,000" should be "1 in 1,000,000,000".
  • pg. 243 — The caption to the picture is a sort-of Thomas Friedmanesque mixed metaphorical monstrosity that misquotes the original source material, is hard to parse due to ambiguous pronouns, and has the wrong number of syllables: "If you liked it, then you should have moved a mass inside its Roche limit."

    In the original quote, "If you like it, then you should've put a ring on it," both instances of "it" sensibly refer to the same thing, namely the narrator (synechdochically through her finger.) It's catchy and easy to understand. Randall's version muddles things by having two instances of "it" that confusingly refer to different entities. The first "it" ("If you liked it") refers to the depicted planet, presumably Earth. The second "it" ("then you should have moved a mass inside its Roche limit") refers to a smaller orbiting body that breaks up into a ring due to tidal forces.

    And then there's the syllable count. If you're going to make a corny Beyoncé reference, make it work! Make it so people can actually sing your caption along to Single Ladies! Suggested correction: "If you like it, move a mass inside the Roche limit."

  • pg. 259 — "What about that shadowy place over there?" This is presumably a The Lion King reference, though the quote is incorrect. It should be "But what about that shadowy place?" Yeah, this is another really nitpicky one, but if you're going to quote something, then actually quote it. Let's not do the "Luke, I am your father" thing.
  • pg. 267 — The strikethrough on "awesome" is weirdly high. Maybe that's just how Adobe Caslon Pro does it ... but gosh does it look bad.
  • pg. 271-272 — Throughout this entire discussion Randall (probably incorrectly) compares the distance of lone sailors to the nearest inhabited land, rather than the nearest inhabited boat. Yes, this line of reasoning necessitates some unsatisfying statistical arguments, but based on how often and how many ships plied the world's oceans in the 1700s, how likely is it that "some shipwrecked 18th-century sailor drifting in a lifeboat in the Southern Ocean" was closer to inhabited land than he was to an inhabited boat? My guess is not very!

I don't have the time or inclination to check over all the formulas and arithmetic in the book, but my guess is if there are simple errors like obvious typos, misspellings, and missing commas in numbers, there are plenty of errors in the more technical sections, as well.

And one final comment, though the constant "[citation needed]" stuff plays well enough in a ~weekly blog format — in part due to the time between posts, but primarily because vapid and monotonous meme repetition is itself a sort of meta-meme and is widely accepted as part of internet culture — it doesn't play well in a book. It just seems lazy and repetitive.

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Re: The "What-If?" Book

Postby Xenomortis » Fri Sep 05, 2014 8:57 am UTC

I don't remember the exact text, but in the preface to the UK edition, Randall notes that we get better gas milage because our gallons are different.
That is, a mile per gallon is better here than in the States.
But the opposite is true; our gallon is about 25% greater than yours.
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Re: The "What-If?" Book

Postby Klear » Fri Sep 05, 2014 3:04 pm UTC

Nickolas wrote:[*]pg. 218 — "Mxyztplk" should be "Mxyzptlk".


Mxyztplk is the original spelling, so depending on the context, it could be correct, or at least not too wrong.

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Re: The "What-If?" Book

Postby Sprocket » Fri Sep 05, 2014 3:23 pm UTC

He was SOOOOO nervous on Colbert! It was super-awk.

But if I found myself in an interview with Colbert, I'd probably crap my pants, cry, and just be like
"Fuck my book. You're Stephen Colbert!" And then I'd shake his hand, and my brain would explode out of my head, and I'd collapse on the table with my tongue hanging out. … So in retrospect he actually did quite well.
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