Randall Munroe

  • Aired:  09/03/14
  •  | Views: 43,158

"What If?" author Randall Munroe chats about the origins of his webcomic "xkcd" and helps Stephen determine the weight of Canada. (6:01)

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)>> HEY, WELL COME BACK,

EVERYBODY, MY GUEST TONIGHTIS A GIVES SCIENTIFIC

ANSWERS TO HYPOTHETICALQUESTIONS, PLEASE WELCOME

RANDALL MUNROE.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)HEY, MR. MUNROE, THANK YOU

SO MUCH FOR COMING ON.

>> THANK YOU.

>> GOOD TO SEE YOU.

>> ALL RIGHT.

>> NOW FOR THOSE OF YOU WHOMAY NOT KNOW MR. MUNROE HERE,

YOU ARE THE HUGO AWARD-WINNINGCREATOR OF XKCD

OKAY.

THAT IS A-- ALL THE HIP KIDSKNOW IT'S A STICK-FIGURE COMIC

STRIP READ BY MILLIONS OFPEOPLE EVERY WEEK.

LET'S SETTLE THE FIRSTTHING.

WHY IS IT CALLED XKCD

>> I KEPT PICKING DIFFERENTNAMES BASED ON WHAT I WAS

INTERESTED IN THINGS TO SETUP AN INTERNET ACCOUNT.

I GOT TIRED OF BEINGSKYWALKER 4 AND EVENTUALLY

WANTED TO PICK SOMETHINGTHAT HAD NO MEANING AT ALL

SO I WOULDN'T GET TIRED OFIT.

>> Stephen: BUT NOW IT MEANSYOU.

NOW XKCD MEANS YOU.

>> YEAH, I SORT OF RUINEDTHAT.

(LAUGHTER)>> Stephen: OKAY.

THE STYLE OF YOUR STRIP ISONE OF THE SAME TIME VERY

BASIC BUT ALSO VERY UNIQUE.

LET'S SHOW THEM EXAMPLE OFYOUR SELF PORTRAIT.

(LAUGHTER)ALL RIGHT.

WHAT, WHY?

>> IS THIS THE BEST YOU CANDRAW OR DO YOU JUST NOT WANT

TO WASTE TIME ON IT?

>> DRAWING IS REALLY HARD.

(LAUGHTER)>> Stephen: I UNDERSTAND.

I UNDERSTAND BUT YOU HAVECHOSEN TO DO IT FOR A

LIVING.

NOW YOU DO EXTRAORDINARYTHINGS WITH THIS STRIP.

AND YOU HAVE TAKEN THATEXTRAORDINARY THING AND MADE

IT INTO A BOOK NOW.

IT'S CALLED WHAT IF SERIOUSSCIENTIFIC ANSWERS TO ABSURD

HYPOTHETICAL QUESTIONS.

ALL RIGHT.

THIS IS THE SORT OF THINGYOU WILL SOMETIMES DO IN THE

STRIP.

YOU WILL EXPLAIN SOMETHINGCOMPLICATED WITH YOUR

DRAWINGS.

AND IN THE SIMPLIST POSSIBLESCIENTIFIC MATHEMATICAL OR

PHILOSOPHICAL WAY.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE THINGSYOU'RE TRYING TO EXPLAIN IN

THIS BOOK?

>> ONE OF THE FIRSTQUESTIONS PEOPLE ASK IS WHAT

WOULD HAPPEN IF YOU TRY TOHIT A BASEBALL PITCHED AT

90% OF THE SPEED OF LIGHT.

>> WHAT WOULD HAPPEN?

>> A LOT OF STUFF HAPPENS.

IT HAPPENS REALLY QUICKLY.

AND NOT A LOT OF PEOPLE GETOUT ALIVE.

>> Stephen: LIKE THERE'S AFIREBALL THAT INCINERATES

THE PITCHER, RIGHT.

>> YEAH, THE BALL FUSES WITHTHE AIR IN FRONT OF IT.

AND YOU GET A SHELL OFX-RAYS THAT SWEEPS OUT AND

IT STARTS DISINTEGRATING THEBATTER AND THE CATCHER AND

ALSO THE PITCHER.

THE PITCHER IS THE FIRST TOGO.

AND A LOT OF THE EXAMPLESYOU HAVE IN THIS BOOKS END

UP WITH PEOPLE, PLACES ORPLANETS BEING DESTROYED.

WHY DO THOSE, WHY ARE THOSETHE KIND OF QUESTIONS THAT

APPEAL TO YOU MOST?

>> I DON'T REALLY KNOW.

PEOPLE SEEM TO LIKE TO ASKQUESTIONS THAT WOULD HAVE

THAT AS A CONSEQUENCE.

BUT I FEEL LIKE WE SPENT ALOT OF TIME MILLIONS OF

HOURS COLLECTIVELY WATCHINGGIFS OF PEOPLE WALKING INTO

SCREEN DOORS AND FALLING OFFOF THINGS.

SO IT SEEMS LIKE NOT ASURPRISE THAT PEOPLE WOULD

WANT TO SEE AN ENTIRE PLANETCRASH INTO SOMETHING OR BLOW

UP.

>> WE ACTUALLY HIT YOU WITH ACOUPLE QUESTIONS BEFOREHAND

HERE.

I WONDER IF YOU HAVE HAD AMOMENT TO THINK ABOUT THESE.

TAKE A STAB.

THESE ARE SOME THAT WE POSEDTO YOU BEFORE YOU CAME HERE

TONIGHT.

HOW MUCH DOES CANADA WEIGH?

(LAUGHTER)

>> SO AND WE'RE TALKING ALLTHE WAY DOWN TO THE CORE OR

JUST-- .

>> Stephen: JUST THE CANADAPART.

>> JUST THE SURFACE PART.

>> Stephen: INHABITABLEMANTLE.

>> IF YOU TAKE A SLICETHAT'S THE WHOLE THING, IT

WOULD BE SOMETHING LIKE 10TO THE 23rd KILOGRAM.

THE WHOLE RERT IS SOMETHINGTO THE 24th.

>> Stephen: I WAS VERYCLOSE.

I HAD 10 TO THE 22nd.

>> YEAH, BUT-- .

>> Stephen: RIGHT THERE,OKAY.

>> BUT.

>> Stephen: ALL RIGHT,THAT'S GOOD ENOUGH.

I KNOW YOU DON'T MEAN TOEDUCATE US.

BUT COULD YOU INCIDENTALLYTHROUGH HUMOR AND THROUGH

YOUR DRAWING, COULD YOUINCIDENTALLY EDUCATE LIKE

KIDS ABOUT SCIENCE ANDMATH?

>> YEAH, WELL THAT'SACTUALLY HOW I GOT STARTED

DOING THIS WAS I TAUGHT ACLASS AT MIT FOR A WEEKEND

AND THEY HAVE A PROGRAMWHERE YOU CAN COME IN AND

TEACH A BUNCH OF HIGH-SCHOOLSTUDENTS ON ANY SUBJECT

YOU'RE INTERESTED IN.

THERE'S NO LIKE CHECKINGCREDENTIALS OR ANYTHING.

AND SO -- .

>> Stephen: REALLY, AND THEYJUST TRUST HIGH SCHOOL AGED

CHILDREN WITH MEN WHO COMEIN WITH NO CREDENTIALS.

>> YEAH, I HAD A COUPLEFRIENDS TEACHING CLASS, ONE

DOING OPERATING SYSTEMDESIGN, ANOTHER ROOT BEER

TASTING.

AND I SAID I WILL TEACH ACLASS ON THE PHYSICS OF

ENERGY.

BECAUSE THAT WAS SOMETHING IHAD BEEN STUDYING AND

THINKING ABOUT A LOT AT THATTIME.

AND SO I DID, AND I HADNEVER DONE A LECTURE BEFORE.

SO I STARTED WALKING THESEKIDS THROUGH, YOU KNOW, ALL

OF THE EQUATIONS I LEARNED.

I TRIED TO MAKE ITINTERESTING, BUT LIKE BY THE

FIRST HOUR I COULD TELL THEYWEREN'T REALLY, THEY WEREN'T

REALLY WITH ME.

I RECOGNIZED THE BOREDEXPRESSIONS, BECAUSE I'VE

BEEN THAT STUDENT SO MANYTIMES.

SO I PULLED OUT AN EXAMPLE

AND STARTED ANALYZING STARTREK.

(LAUGHTER)SO I STARTED-- I STARTED

ANALYZING SCIENCE FICTIONSCENES.

SOW I SAID YODA WHEN HEPULLS THE XWING OUT OF THE SWAMP

IN THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK,YOU KNOW, THERE'S A CERTAIN

AMOUNT OF ENERGY BEING USEDTHERE.

>> Stephen: NO, A CERTAINAMOUNT OF FORCE IS BEING

USED THERE, I HATE TOCORRECT YOU.

>> RIGHT, WELL-- .

>> Stephen: RANDALL, THANKYOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING ME.

>> THANK YOU.

>> Stephen: RANDALL MONROE,THE BOOK IS WHAT IF.

WE'LL BE RIGHT BACK.

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