Friday, September 19, 2014

How Long Does It Take to Get to Tatooine? - The New Yorker

Excerpt from a thoughtful review of What If?

"Munroe’s absurd “what if”s combine these elements to maximum effect. For one, the question format helps to inspire interest, because questions are by nature uncertain—they inherently create an information gap. And hypothetical questions, in particular, are designed to be novel and incongruous, creating juxtapositions that don’t exist in the real world. Where a normal, expected, and unsurprising question lacks the power to draw us in—How much energy does it take to light a dozen light bulbs?—the absurd hypothetical makes us want to read further. The “what if”s also happen to be salient, both because they describe fundamental aspects of nature and our environment and because the cartoons capture the eye and the mind simultaneously. They even satisfy Loewenstein and Golman’s requirement for epiphany: while reading a specific narrative scenario, you learn about broader physics concepts that can satisfy other information gaps."
How Long Does It Take to Get to Tatooine? - The New Yorker
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