My Rating 10.0/10

My Summary:

Randall Monroe is a literary genius. If you haven’t read his XKCD comic, go peruse it immediately. In this book, Randal answers all of the crazy hypothetical questions his audience dreams up. Everything from, “If everyone on the Earth aimed a laser pointer at the Moon at the same time, would if change color?”, to “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?”. His answers are technically brilliant, and hilariously absurd. You constantly learn things you never thought you would learn, and laugh the entire way through.


The batter wouldn’t even have seen the pitcher let go of the ball, since the light carrying that information would arrive at about the same time the ball would.

Major League Baseball Rule 6.08(b) suggests that in this situation, the batter would be considered “hit by pitch,” and would be eligible to advance to first base.

Interstellar space is very cold, but space near the Sun—and near Earth—is actually incredibly hot! The reason it doesn’t seem that way is that in space, the definition of “temperature” breaks down a little bit. Space seems cold because it’s so empty.

While colds are no fun, their absence might be worse. In his book A Planet of Viruses, author Carl Zimmer says that children who aren’t exposed to rhinoviruses have more immune disorders as adults. It’s possible that these mild infections serve to train and calibrate our immune systems.

The result of these two phenomena is that if you move between polar regions and equatorial ones, you might lose or gain up to about half a percent of your body weight.

If you stand on the North Pole, you’re 20 kilometers closer to the center of the Earth than if you stand on the equator, and you feel a stronger pull from gravity. Furthermore, if you’re on the equator, you’re being flung outward by centrifugal force.

But I’ve never seen the Icarus story as a lesson about the limitations of humans. I see it as a lesson about the limitations of wax as an adhesive. The cold of Titan is just an engineering problem. With the right refitting, and the right heat sources, a Cessna 172 could fly on Titan—and so could we.

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