back to article Love XKCD? Love science? You'll love a book about science from Randall Munroe

They say you shouldn’t get a fan to review a book and it’s certainly tough to be critical when you pick up the new book from Randall Munroe, the much-loved creator of awesome science webcomic XKCD. What If? is a series of usually ridiculous questions from the public to XKCD’s inbox that Munroe answers using science and …

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  1. smartypants

    Anyone who invented Upgoer 5 deserves a purchase from me

    http://xkcd.com/1133/

    1. beep54

      Re: Anyone who invented Upgoer 5 deserves a purchase from me

      You will not go to space today.

  2. Old Used Programmer

    Actually... I once met some people that went swimming in the pool of a live reacter. The reactor had been "shut down" but the core was there. They said that the next time they did it, they were going to shut down the cooling system for a while first as the water in the reactor pool was *cold*.

    It was the research reactor on the UC Berkeley campus. Open pool, 1MW continuous or 2MW pulsed. It was also the reactor used for the neutron activation analysis work that resulted in the Alvarez, Alvarez, Asaro and Michels paper on the KT boundary impact.

    1. Steven Jones

      Just keep near the surface

      I'd be a bit worried if something significant did happen to anybody taking a swim in a spent nuclear fuel pool unless they were unwise enough to try and and swim down near the fuel (even then, exposure will be limited as there's a limit to how long people can hold their breathe; that's assuming nobody is using diving equipment). After all, besides cooling, the pools are designed to be deep enough to shield anybody at the surface from significant levels of exposure to radiation. They only need to be about 6m deep for that purpose, and are all at least twice that depth.

      1. Robert Sneddon

        Spent fuel pool depth

        Spent fuel pools in light-water reactor buildings are usually a little over twice as deep as the length of the fuel rod assemblies used in the reactor. When refuelling is taking place the reactor is flooded and a "gate" is opened to connect the flooded top of the reactor with the adjacent pool. The fuel assemblies are withdrawn from the reactor one at a time and kept under the surface of the water until they are dropped into a slot in the racks in the bottom of the pool. Later after they have cooled down for a time they are transferred, still underwater into a storage or transfer cask which is sealed and then lifted out of the pool.

        It doesn't take much water to block the radiation from a spent fuel assembly after a day or two have passed since the reactor was shut down, a few centimetres will do a decent job of blocking most of it.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Just keep near the surface

        I've been in the pools and containment building at the Shearon Harris facility outside of Raleigh, NC. I've actually been all over that place in many areas that humans rarely see. But then that was during construction of the facility when I was working there as an electrician pulling cables all over the place ;)

        1. JDX Gold badge

          Re: Just keep near the surface

          The fact the water shields you from radiation isn't the only factor to consider, even if it turns out to be perfectly safe when those factors ARE considered.

        2. This post has been deleted by its author

        3. Jamie Jones Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: Just keep near the surface

          " I've been in the pools and containment building at the Shearon Harris facility outside of Raleigh, NC. I've actually been all over that place in many areas that humans rarely see."

          "All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.

          Time to die."

  3. Vulch

    Make that...

    Randall Munroe, the *Hugo winning and* much-loved creator of awesome science webcomic XKCD

    Time (http://xkcd.com/1190/) got him the Best Graphic Story award a couple of weeks ago.

    1. Dave Bell

      Which award was accepted on his behalf by Cory Doctorow in XKCD cosplay.

      1. Robert Sneddon

        From this strip

        http://xkcd.com/345/

        1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

          Re: From this strip

          And which produced this http://www.girlgeniusonline.com/comic.php?date=20140827 from the professors at Girl Genius!

  4. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
    Coat

    Every other day..

    I know what day it is.

    How can I not buy the book? I also haven't finished the long one yet, one day :)

    ------------------------------>> That's me getting my wallet out for once.

    Something else I didn't know..

    "In 2013, a main-belt asteroid (4942 Munroe) was named after him."

    Cool.

  5. Mage Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    science is really, really cool

    Also can be Weird and Dangerous.

    I'm temped to drop hints to anyone buying me a Christmas present.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I have pre-ordered this. The man is a genius, and even better, a funny genius. That is all.

    1. Mr Common Sense
      Trollface

      A genius that seemingly doesn't believe in free speech.

      http://xkcd.com/1357/

      1. John 110
        FAIL

        @Mr Common Sense

        I don't think that comic means what you think it means....

        (NB: you did check out the hovertext, didn't you?)

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Yeah, that strip was one of a few that have popped up now and then that suggests that Randall Munroe is actually a bit of an arsehole. I don't agree that it is against the holy Free Speech™ that Americans get their knickers in a twist about, but it is clearly against dissent, which is subtly different. So I've taken his advice and stopped reading his comic.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          That comic is not "clearly against dissent," it's clearly about the need to take responsibility for how people react to what you say. Isn't it also free speech for people to treat you like an asshole if you are, in their opinion, an asshole?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            "That comic is not "clearly against dissent," it's clearly about the need to take responsibility for how people react to what you say. Isn't it also free speech for people to treat you like an asshole if you are, in their opinion, an asshole?"

            I think you're being generous. The strip seems to be to be advocating a very common thing on the Internet where every site becomes an echo chamber for "acceptable" opinions. The problem with the strip is that it doesn't distinguish between unpopular opinions and, for example, just constantly posting insults.

            Munroe has posted several strips which made me think that he doesn't like hearing certain opinions that don't fit into his nice middle-class worldview of how things should be and this one basically confirmed my impression of someone who wants the world to be a perfect mirror of his view point, with everthing else blocked or banned.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              > The strip seems to be to be advocating a very common thing on the Internet where every site becomes an echo chamber for "acceptable" opinions.

              Nah, the guy runs some forums, and as everyone else who runs some forums, he has to deal with arseholes being arseholes (read: moderation / banning), and then said arseholes go on to complain about their "Free Speech" rights, and how they're going to sue you for a billion dollars and blah blah blah... (even on UK forums :-( ). It gets a bit tiring after a while, not only for the mods, but also for the rest of the audience.

              Just go and start up some bulletin board website, gather up a couple hundred users, then come back after a few months of moderating the beast and then give us your thoughts about "Free Speech" and conforming to opinions and bollocks.

        2. Pet Peeve

          How is saying "it's your own responsibilty if you become a pariah for being an asshole" being an asshole?

          Free speech does not mean freedom from consequences. The alternative would be a pretty shitty world to live in.

          1. Naughtyhorse

            freedom != responsibility

            Free speech does not mean freedom from consequences. The alternative would be a pretty shitty world to live in.

            so you noticed :-)

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          > So I've taken his advice and stopped reading his comic.

          Ok, and now why not also apply his advice to this very website? Thanks.

      3. Dave Stevens

        There's no believing in science

        Here in Canada, we have anti-hate laws so you can be charged for things you say.

        Some US political figures are kindly reminded before they come here to give paid speeches.

        That's about the only time I hear about Free Speech.

        1. Martin-73 Silver badge

          Re: There's no believing in science

          It'd be a service to humanity if nobody for once reminded them... till the police hauled their asses away (and whatever other transport they brought)

      4. Day

        You REALLY misunderstood that strip, didn't you?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Not just misunderstood the strip, misunderstood what the Constitution is for. It restricts the *government*, not private citizens directly.

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Dimbulb

        "A genius that seemingly doesn't believe in free speech".

        Absolutely wrong. What that strip does is to explain, to people like you, what "free speech" actually means - and what it doesn't mean.

      6. Naughtyhorse

        hey there teabagger

        you're an asshole, that does not understand English and the door is over there ====>

      7. Lars Silver badge

        Oh dear, how can that cartoon be misunderstood. You are free to say what ever you like but you cannot force anybody to listen or repeat it or publish it.

  7. Steve Knox Silver badge
    Happy

    I love it

    When my two favorite web sites converge, if only for a brief moment.

    1. That Awful Puppy

      Re: I love it

      I never knew I had a twin named Steve.

  8. Def Silver badge

    What if...

    ...these stories were already online?

    I've been reading What If? since it first started. They're all brilliant.

    http://what-if.xkcd.com/

    1. Lexxy

      Re: What if...

      According to his blag, there will be a few exclusive entries to the book.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oxford Electric Bell

    I need those Oxford Electric Bell batteries for my cell phone

    1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Oxford Electric Bell

      You need a phone that rings continuously for a hundred years?

  10. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    The author of this book is an internet cartoonist,

    ...and the book is only available in hardback? No e-book version?

    Maybe he could come up with a funny cartoon for that :-)

    I'll still be getting my copy though.

    1. Day

      Re: The author of this book is an internet cartoonist,

      The Kindle edition is out on 4th September 2014 according to Amazon.

    2. silent_count

      Re: The author of this book is an internet cartoonist,

      Kindle version: $15.83

      Hard cover: $14.40

      http://www.amazon.com/What-If-Scientific-Hypothetical-Questions/dp/0544272994

      What if... ebooks with almost zero storage and distribution costs were cheaper that the hard cover edition?

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
        WTF?

        Re: The author of this book is an internet cartoonist,

        Ta for the link but I think you missed the icon ---->

      2. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: The author of this book is an internet cartoonist,

        My dad used to write advanced biological textbooks and the bastard publishers managed to convince him that because e-books were more complicated he'd get less royalties on them. Given that he formatted the book on his computer ready for printing and the e-book was automatically generated from that the book he nearly finished when he died is just going online for free!

      3. DiViDeD Silver badge

        Re: The author of this book is an internet cartoonist,

        "What if... ebooks with almost zero storage and distribution costs were cheaper that the hard cover edition?"

        I regret to inform you that I've already had this conversation:

        'Yabbut with an ebook, you can take it anywhere. You can be reading it on your phone and then you can fire up your tablet and you're on the same page you were last time, even if you were reading it on a different device, and......'

        Even after I'd picked my jaw up off the floor I couldn't think of a response which didn't include the word twunt

      4. veti Silver badge

        Re: The author of this book is an internet cartoonist,

        From your link:

        Kindle: $9.99

        Hardcover: $14.40

        So it looks like someone has listened to your complaint. Well done. Have a cookie.

        1. Semtex451 Silver badge

          Re: The author of this book is an internet cartoonist,

          At Kindle £7.99

          Hardback £10.49

          Apologies to uk bookshops

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    good write up...

    ... anyone else disappointed in the mouseover text?

  12. lupine

    yay!

    kindle version pre-ordered. thanks for the heads up.

  13. A. Coatsworth
    Happy

    Volume 0

    Hated that book... but not for the reason you might think... the riddles and games sprinkled in the pages of that book made me feel utterly dumb, I could figure out maybe 10% of them.

    So I can't (and don't want to) imagine what sort of new games he included in this new book!

    Hopefully I can "hint" someone in my family to get it as Christmas present

  14. Andrew Moore Silver badge

    Bye bye XKCD...

    The normal way this works-

    1. Publisher spots popular website with good readership.

    2. Publisher offers site owner a nice upfront advance on book.

    3. Book gets published.

    4. Site owner sent on gruelling promotional tour.

    5. Site never gets updated again or if it does so, extremely infrequently.

    6. Site owner basically makes no money because they learn about "withholding".

    This has happened to so many sites- Off the top of my head: SatireWire; The Perry Bible Fellowship; Tucker Max; Regretsy; 27bSlashb...

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