Non-Fiction, STEM

What If? by Randall Munroe

The audiobook kick continues! My husband recommends this book to just about everyone (despite the fact that he hasn’t read it!) so I figured it was about time I revisit the realm of science and read (welll, listen to) it myself.

Synopsis

Millions of people visit xkcd.com each week to read Randall Munroe’s iconic webcomic. His stick-figure drawings about science, technology, language, and love have an enormous, dedicated following, as do his deeply researched answers to his fans’ strangest questions. The queries he receives range from merely odd to downright diabolical: – What if I took a swim in a spent-nuclear-fuel pool? – Could you build a jetpack using downward-firing machine guns? – What if a Richter 15 earthquake hit New York City? – Are fire tornadoes possible? His responses are masterpieces of clarity and wit, gleefully and accurately explaining everything from the relativistic effects of a baseball pitched at near the speed of light to the many horrible ways you could die while building a periodic table out of all the actual elements. The book features new and never-before-answered questions, along with the most popular answers from the xkcd website. What If? is an informative feast for xkcd fans and anyone who loves to ponder the hypothetical.

Review

What a fun book! I love hypothetical questions, I am the person who constantly had to ask “Why?” in school, much to the chagrin of my teachers, I’m sure. However, it does mean that, as a teacher, I will always answer my students “Why-s.” The topics covered in What If? range across many different aspects of math and science and is the perfect classroom book – for students who finish early on work, or who just love to question everything about the world around them.

My one gripe – it does get a little highbrow. Between each “chapter” (serious question), there are other questions collected that Munroe doesn’t answer, and instead gives a snarky remark/answer to, basically treating them like stupid questions he doesn’t deem worthy of answering. Downside to this, even the smartest of readers don’t always know why he considers them stupid and would really like to know the answer to said questions. I’d take an answer over a snarky comment any day.

Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

Edition: Hardcover • $25.00 • 9780544272996 • 320 pages • published September 2014 by Houghton Mifflin • average Goodreads rating 4.17 out of 5 • read in May 2018

xkcd Website

What If? on Goodreads

Get a Copy of What If?

Essays, Non-Fiction, STEM

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson

When my husband was studying physics, all he wanted to focus on was astrophysics. We watched all of Cosmos as it aired (a rarity for us) and frequently attended talks on the universe and astrophysics at planetariums in Philly. As Neil deGrasse Tyson has blown up in popular culture and his books become bestsellers, I figure it about time I read one.

Synopsis

What is the nature of space and time? How do we fit within the universe? How does the universe fit within us? There’s no better guide through these mind-expanding questions than acclaimed astrophysicist and best-selling author Neil deGrasse Tyson.

But today, few of us have time to contemplate the cosmos. So Tyson brings the universe down to Earth succinctly and clearly, with sparkling wit, in tasty chapters consumable anytime and anywhere in your busy day.

While you wait for your morning coffee to brew, for the bus, the train, or a plane to arrive, Astrophysics for People in a Hurry will reveal just what you need to be fluent and ready for the next cosmic headlines: from the Big Bang to black holes, from quarks to quantum mechanics, and from the search for planets to the search for life in the universe.

Review

Lately I have come to discover that I cannot fall asleep without listening to an audiobook and my library Overdrive app has become indispensable. Thankfully, there is no shortage of wonderful books to listen too and, following the recommendation of one of our publisher reps at the store, I decided to listen to Astrophysics for People in a Hurry as Neil deGrasse Tyson reads it himself. I’ve previously discussed how certain author’s voices ring in my head when I read their work (namely Anthony Bourdain and David Attenborough) and Tyson is one of them – if I was going to hear him in my head, I might as well actually listen to him read his own book.

I enjoyed listening to this collection of essays covering pretty much any physics topic having to do with astrophysics, however, as has always seemed to be the case with me and physics, since high school, I don’t remember any of it. My mind wanders – less so when listening to a book than when actually reading it, I can only read for half hour bursts – and I am a highly tactile learner. Visuals and auditory learning just aren’t my thing. So while I am the intended audience for Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, I am, simultaneously not, thank you ADD.

Additionally, while listening, I realized that Astrophysics for People in a Hurry is really Cosmos in book form. Which is great – it’s now been four years since it first aired, people probably need a refresher course at this point. All in all, I enjoyed listening to Astrophysics, but I really wish I remembered it better.

Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

Edition: Hardcover • $18.95 • 9780393609394 • 224 pages • published May 2017 by W. W. Norton & Company • average Goodreads rating 4.13 out of 5 • read March 2018

Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Website

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry on Goodreads

Get a Copy of Astrophysics for People in a Hurry

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry