What If??


What If? Do you know that awkward moment when you pose a question to your teacher and she has no clue what the hell are you talking about? And that awkward moment is further aggravated by the realization of the possibility of her being humiliated in front of the class by someone half her age? Of course is doesn’t help that she will be grading you and she knows your name. Sigh! Fortunately, not all teachers are so easily humiliated. We have those rare species that take a weird, out of the syllabus question in their stride. Admit that they do not know and hence would be unable to answer the question, would nudge us to pursue the question on our own and if we are lucky, would join us in our journey. Randall Munroe is one such gift to all the curious students out there. I admit I hadn’t browsed his website or read his previous book earlier. I bought the book primarily because of heavy discounts and the tagline ‘serious scientific answers to absurd hypothetical questions’ where the absurd part was a dinosaur being lifted by crane. But man! Who could imagine the brilliance of this book. Patiently and steadfastly he chooses to answer questions posed by strangers across the globe. He is a teacher, I wish everyone had. Not only does he take the time and effort to research the answer to a question, he also tells you his source, how he went about the answer. And if at all there were more hypothesis, more scenarios, he would address them nonetheless. Pursuing your own curiosity is one thing, but chasing someone else’s with the same amount of gusto is something beyond my imagination. Though now it’s more real than ever. Have you ever wondered how many calories you could gain if you consumed a book by its cover? That’s the first thing you learn, without even having to start the book. Other awesome questions he answers include- What would happen if Earth and all terrestrial objects suddenly stopped spinning but the atmosphere retained its velocity? If everyone on the planet stayed away from each other for a couple of weeks, would the common cold be wiped out? How much physical space does the internet take up? If every human somehow simply disappeared from the face of the Earth, how long before the last artificial source would go out? In each of these questions and others, he openly judges them on the practicality of the query posed and classifies some of them as weird and worrying. What he does unlike others is, acknowledge them even if he doesn’t answer them. If I compare him to a teacher, most of them would be dumbfounded, not know how to respond or worse, just think that the child is trying to cause distraction. If the kid is smart, it is more likely to be taken as an act of arrogance. He on the other hand, patiently hears them out if he is not already turning the world upside down to look for answers. Don’t get me wrong here, I am not judging teachers for their response. I do tend to be taken aback by the questions beyond my range. I am just beginning to aspire to be like Randall Munroe in my class and hoping others would do so too. For all you know I would pose their questions to him if I fail to answer them. Oh, did I mention his doodles? And his sense of humor? And he gives credit to my favorite hero Goku? That’s simply icing on the cake 🙂

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4 thoughts on “What If??

  1. Math miss, I have a question for you- if numbers were to be weighed, which would be the heaviest of them all ? 😉 😛

    Keep the blog going!!

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