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Having reviewed over 1200 books on this blog, I have now written two myself. Motherdarling is a story about a search for a missing Will which reveals long-hidden family secrets. The Kids of God is a thriller set in a dystopia ruled by fascist paramilitaries. Both are available as paperbacks and on Kindle through Amazon. I live in Canterbury, England. I lived for more than thirty years in Bedford. Having retired from teaching; I became a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Liminality. I achieved my PhD in 2019. I am now properly retired. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Thursday, 20 February 2020

"What If?" by Randall Munroe

A weird science geek sort of book which takes hypothetical scenarios and uses science to predict what would happen. "If you suddenly began rising at one foot per second, how exactly would you die?" That sort of thing. The question about what would happen if all your DNA disappeared, whilst fanciful, did at least spark a discussion of chemotherapy which is designed to interrupt cell division thus targeting rapid dividers such as cancel cells ... and the cells that line the stomach and hair follicles which is why you get nausea and your hair falls out. (p 135) But when he calculates Yoda's power output based on the size of the plane he lifts from the marsh and how high and how fast he lifts it, and finding the appropriate planet's gravity from the fan site Wookiepedia (p 144), I start to realise that there are geekier geeks than me.

Some of these scenarios are interesting (though almost all are incredibly unlikely if not impossible). As with all books such as this one I discovered random nuggets of gold:

  • Following the ice age species returned to New England at different rates: "when Europeans arrived in New England, earthworms had not yet returned." (p 17)
  • "It seems reasonable to assume that however the human story plays out, in a million years it will have exited its current stage. ... Our most lasting relic will probably be the layer of plastic we've deposited across the planet." (p 21)
  • "If your phone has a barometer in it ... you can download an app and actually see the pressure difference between your head and your feet." (p 74) although I tried this and with the app and phone I was using there was no difference. Perhaps I'm too short (1m85).
  • All the hard drives in the world used to store the data on the internet could fit into a single oil tanker. (p 87) That was reassuring.

Some clever stuff but ...

February 2020; 295 pages

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