What if?

August 9, 2012

Take note: Randall Munroe, the genius behind xkcd.com, has launched a new public service: people ask questions, and he answers on Tuesday. You have to see it to understand how amazing this is: his answers are funny, illuminating, and totally unexpected, even as they are absolutely true.

Here’s an example, where he determines how many Yodas it would take to transform the world to Yoda-based energy: http://what-if.xkcd.com/3. What’s wonderful is that he has to consider so many elements that aren’t given in the question: the mass of an X-wing, the gravity on Degobah… and it comes together beautifully.

Or consider this one, where he calculates the odds of guessing your way to a perfect SAT. Again, what drives it home are the comparisons: how unlikely is it? He answers the question with lightning strikes.

“This means that the odds of acing the SAT by guessing are worse than the odds of every living ex-President and every member of the main cast of Firefly all being independently struck by lightning … on the same day.”

He publishes new What-Ifs every Tuesday. I hope to see these used in classrooms everywhere soon. After all, who wouldn’t want to learn more about what’s going on in this picture:

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