Interview with Randall Munroe

Surely, you've seen his comics xkcd on the web before and perhaps you've seen his new site What If, where Randall pondered things like what would happen if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90% of the speed of light, how long you'd have to wait while opening your mouth till a bird pooped in it, and what would happen if everyone on Earth aimed a laser at the Moon. (See kids? Science can be fun!)

Megan Garber of The Atlantic spoke to Munroe about how the new What If series got started:

First things first: Why did you create What If?

It actually started with a class. MIT has a weekend program where volunteers can teach classes to groups of high school students on any subject you want. I had a friend who was doing it, and it sounded really cool -- so I signed up to teach a class about energy, which I always thought was interesting, but which is a slippery idea to define. I was really getting into the nuts and bolts of what energy is, and it was a lot of fun -- but when I started to get into the normal lecture part of the class, it felt kind of dry, and I could tell the kids weren't super into it. And then we got to a part where I brought up an example -- I think it was Yoda in Star Wars. And they got really excited about that. And then they started throwing out more questions about different movies -- like, "When the Eye of Sauron exploded at the end of The Lord of the Rings, and knocked people over from this far away, can we tell how big a blast that was?" They got really excited about that -- and I had a lot more fun doing it than I did just teaching the regular material.

So I spent the second half of the class just solving problems like that in front of them. And then I was like, "That was really fun. I want to keep doing it."

Read the rest of the interview: Link


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