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Thursday, October 02, 2014

Best Thing I've Read Today

In his book "What If?" Randall Munroe has worked out the serious scientific answers to absurd hypothetical questions, including:
  • What would happen if everyone on Earth stood as close to each other as they could and jumped with everyone landing on the ground at the same instant?
  • If every human somehow simply disappeared from the face of the Earth, how long would it be before the last artificial light source would go out?
  • If you suddenly began rising steadily at 1 foot per second, how exactly would you die -- would you freeze or suffocate first?
  • If my printer could literally print out money, would it have that big an effect on the world?
  • What would happen if lightning struck a bullet in midair?
  • How hard would a puck have to be shot to be able to knock the goalie backward into the net?
He answers all the questions (contributed by readers of his website) with scientific accuracy, going into remarkable detail on many of them, often extrapolating to the point where something blows up (a la The Mythbusters). 

Munroe also injects just the required amount of snark. For example, a guy named Chad asked, "What if you strapped c4 to a boomerang? Could this be an effective weapon, or would it be as stupid as it sounds?" Munroe's answer: "Aerodynamics aside, I'm curious what tactical advantage you're expecting to gain by having the high explosive fly back at you if it misses the target."

The only one I was able to figure out without reading Munroe's answer was "What is the farthest one human being has ever been from every other living person?" I'll post the answer here later today, but I recommend you get the book for the answers to the rest (and many more).