Thursday, December 25, 2014

Review: What If?

What If? is Randall Munroe's book of Fermi estimation questions and answers. If you've ever worked for any of the well-known (or even less well-known) tech companies, you're familiar with Fermi estimation questions because they're frequently used to interview candidates. The other community that loves Fermi estimation problems are physicists (hence the reference to Fermi), and this is a book full of them. Munroe's background was in Physics before he became rich and famous by writing and drawing XKCD.

What's cool about this book is that almost all of them involve scenarios that eventually destroy the Earth, hence very few of them would be ever come up in a Google (or Microsoft) interview. Nevertheless, I found the book as much fun to read as any novel, and much more fun than most. (The one question that would be useful is: "Will the internet ever provide more bandwidth than a Fedex box full of storage media?")

If your name was Sherlock Holmes, you'd disdain this book, since it's chock-full of little titbits and facts that you'll never ever need to know and irrelevant to your work. But for the rest of us, I highly recommend this book as a quick fun read that will back a trans-Atlantic flight go by at an impressive rate.

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