Pre-thinking:

Monroe says that he tries to answer questions sent in by renders using math, science and comics. The process of answering allows people to see the fun and creative part of science. This helps us in the exploration of how our minds work.

Why you should listen:

Munroe’s blog What If? specializes in cunning answers to, as the Atlantic put it, “the kinds of of wonderful and fanciful hypotheticals that might arise when the nerdily inclined get together in bars,” like “How fast can you hit a speed bump while driving and live?” or “What would happen if a hair dryer with continuous power was turned on and put in an airtight 1x1x1 meter box?” As he told Math Horizons, I really enjoy solving these kinds of things, and it’s a bonus if I realize that I can put boxes around it and make it a comic.

Who is he:

One of a small group of professional web cartoonists, math obsessive and chronic explainer Randall Munroe dazzles the online world (and racks up millions of monthly page views) with the meaninglessly-named (and occasionally heartbreaking) web comic xkcd.

Questions:

  1. What do you think is unusual about combining math, science and comics. Explain you viewpoint to someone.
  1. Why do you think Google is so secretive about the size of its data pool?
  1. Develop a short list of three unusual combinations similar to math, science, cartoons and show how one set could be used in a creative way. Explain your list to someone.
  1. The 2010 print version of Encyclopedia Britannica is 32 volumes. It is also the last print version to be published. Why is this?
  1. Creativity has been defined as combining previously unconnected ideas or information in a way that gives a useful result. In what ways are Monroe’s answers useful? Read some of his blog before you answer.
  1. No matter how much information and data is stored, we are faced with the problem of retrieval. List as many characteristics of a great information retrieval program as you can and explain you answer to someone.

Comics that ask “what if” with Randall Munroe

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