What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions (What If?, #1) | Randall Munroe

Summary of: What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions (What If?, #1)
By: Randall Munroe

Introduction

Embark on a journey through a world of absurd hypothetical questions, as we explore the key highlights and themes of the book ‘What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions’ by Randall Munroe. Delve into fascinating explanations of complex scientific concepts in an engaging and user-friendly language. You’ll learn about the potential consequences of living without the Sun, meet gravity-defying inhabitants of tiny planets, and ponder the financial implications of printing the entire English Wikipedia. Discover the probability of completely vanishing common colds and the likelihood of humans meeting their soulmates, all while keeping your brain entertained and enlightened.

Darkness Brings Benefits

If the Sun went out, Earth would face a horrifying fate. However, surprisingly, it would also have some benefits. For instance, the risk of solar flare and the subsequent geomagnetic storms would reduce, saving billions of dollars in economic damage. Additionally, the cost of building bridges would decrease as we would merely traverse across the ice. Moreover, without the Sun, we could exist in one time zone, making trade easier. Nevertheless, since there would be no Sun, we would all freeze and perish. While the thought of losing the Sun is terrifying, it is interesting to note some advantages it brings.

Life on a tiny planet

The Little Prince tells the story of a prince from a far-off asteroid. While living on a small but heavy asteroid is impossible, it’s interesting to imagine the gravitational peculiarities we’d encounter. On a tiny planet like this, we’d experience Earth-like gravity at the surface, but it would decrease much faster. This means that our feet would feel four times heavier than our heads, giving us a stretching sensation. Despite this, we could easily run away from the planet with a sprint. The minimum velocity we need to break free of its gravitational pull is only 5m/s. The direction we run in does not matter, as long as our speed exceeds this number. If we do not run fast enough for this, we can still go into orbit around the planet. Although living on a small planet is not possible, experiencing it in our imaginations helps us appreciate the complexity and beauty of the universe.

Print vs. Digital: The Cost of Keeping Up with Wikipedia

Did you know that you only need six printers to print the entire English Wikipedia, despite the 125,000 to 150,000 daily edits? However, the cost of paper and ink needed for this project would amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars in just one or two months. While the electricity cost remains manageable, it’s clear that digital is still the smarter option.

Eradicating the Common Cold

If everyone were to quarantine themselves, the common cold would likely be eradicated. Rhinoviruses, which are the most common culprits, need people to travel between, and without new hosts, they eventually die out. However, quarantining everyone would have practical and economic consequences. Not all immune systems are in great shape, and some need mild infections to strengthen them. Economic activity worldwide would come to a halt, resulting in trillions of dollars in losses. Plus, keeping everyone apart would be challenging, with the closest person being 77 meters away on average. While it would eradicate the virus, causing the collapse of civilization isn’t worth it.

The Odds of Finding Your Soulmate

Discover how many people you need to meet to find your soulmate and why technology may be the solution.

Have you ever wondered if your soulmate is out there waiting for you? What if we told you that finding your one and only may be a near-impossible task? According to statistics, the chances of bumping into your soulmate are rather slim.

Let’s start with the assumption that your soulmate lives at the same time as you do. Even then, the odds of meeting your soulmate are minuscule. Pursuing this inquiry, imagine that you lock eyes with roughly 24 new people per day, 10 percent of whom are around your age. If we also estimate that a lifetime is approximately 60 years, you’ll make eye contact with about 50,000 potential soulmates in one lifetime.

Now, considering 7 billion potential candidates worldwide, we can say we have roughly 500,000,000 potential soulmates, narrowing down to our preferred age range and gender. Unfortunately, that means we would need about 10,000 hypothetical lifetimes to make eye contact with every potential soulmate. Mind-boggling, isn’t it?

To add to this, even if you had that much time on your hands, you’d need to have considerable resources to afford it. Therefore, society may need to reorganize itself to allow people to spend as much time as possible making eye contact. The author suggests a modified version of ChatRoulette, where people could spend time video chatting to find their soulmates.

In theory, if everyone had eight hours a day, seven days a week, and only a few seconds to know if someone was their soulmate, we could pair everyone with their soulmate within a few decades. However, in practice, this would be incredibly challenging, and only the wealthy would have enough time to spend their days looking for their soulmate.

In conclusion, finding your soulmate may be a daunting task. However, with technology advances, we may be able to pair people up with their soulmates sooner or later.

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