The Book of What If...?: Questions and Activities for Curious Minds

The Book of What If...?: Questions and Activities for Curious Minds

by Matt Murrie, Andrew R McHugh


View All Available Formats & Editions
Usually ships within 6 days


From the creators of the What If…? Conference comes a quirky book that encourages kids to explore and engage with the world around them by asking more than eighty wild, absurd, and thought provoking questions.

What if a book didn’t just tell you how to think or what to know, but rather encouraged you to think for yourself? What if there was a book that focused on asking questions instead of just answering them?

The Book of What If…? does just that! What if you lived on a floating city? What if politicians were kids? What if broccoli tasted like chocolate? What if you could explore outer space?

By asking these fun, open-ended questions, this book fosters greater critical thinking skills and gives kids a space to interact by breaking out a notebook to draw or write out their personal reactions, or engage in entertaining exercises with family and friends. Plus, sidebars deepen the investigation with peer-to-peer insights, historical and current profiles, real-life examples, and more, making for unlimited learning opportunities!

Divided into sections—history, people, stuff, and nature—along with four introductory texts to open up a dialogue about why it’s important to be inquisitive and to always ask questions, The Book of What If…? is sure to be a hit with kids, teachers, and parents alike. So ask a question and let the answers lead you on an exciting journey filled with endless opportunities to learn!

Related collections and offers

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781582705286
Publisher: Aladdin/Beyond Words
Publication date: 04/18/2017
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 958,488
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.80(d)
Lexile: 910L (what's this?)
Age Range: 8 - 12 Years

About the Author

Matt Murrie works to live in a world where people prefer finding solutions to complaining about problems, where people seek answers through questions, and curiosity is treated like the natural resource it is. Endlessly curious in and fascinated by the spectacular diversity of people and places that make up the universe, he’s taught for over a decade across five countries and three continents. He’s a returned Peace Corps volunteer who has written six books with his father, Steve Murrie. Matt also taught English literature, writing, and entrepreneurship at Westminster College and blogged on the Huffington Post. Today, he’s a social entrepreneur and “edupreneur” working full-time as the Executive Director and Chief Curiosity Curator for What If…? 360.

Andrew R McHugh breaks down complexity into understandable and useable chunks. He is currently a Masters student at Carnegie Mellon University, studying human-computer interaction. Previously, he co-founded the What If…? Conference, What If…? 360’s predecessor. Andrew left in 2014 and has been designing and developing user experiences ever since. Actively curious about many things, he has a background in design, philosophy, technology and people, mathematics, and physics. During his undergraduate years, Andrew built a bikeshare program, led a movement for systematic sustainability change, and researched brain-computer interfaces, and digital divide/differentiation problems. In his free time, he tinkers on his next project and listens to music louder than necessary.

Read an Excerpt

The Book of What If . . . ?

What if Dinosaurs Hadn’t Gone Extinct?

If you’ve done any digging around on dinosaurs, you’ve probably discovered that the word dinosaur means “terrible lizard.”?1 But this isn’t entirely true. The actual translation for the Greek prefix deinos is “fearfully great.” The inventor of the word dinosaur, Richard Owen, intended the word to inspire awe, not terror.2 Over time, people have turned “fearfully great” into simply “terrible.”

“I would have a pet velociraptor. And we could buy dinosaurs at dino dealerships because there would be no need for cars because you just ride your T. Rex where you need to go.”

—Charlie, Battle High School, age 15

The second half of the word dinosaur comes from the Greek word sauros, which means “lizard.”?3 Even though many originally thought dinosaurs were lizards, scientists have now determined that they weren’t. Interestingly enough, birds and lizards both seem to be descendants of dinosaurs (though different ones).4 The more we learn about dinosaurs, the more ways we find how they differed from the reptiles we have today, including lizards.

But what if we had more than just a bunch of bones to go by to understand dinosaurs? What if dinosaurs were alive today?

“I would train a dinosaur to let me ride it to school.”

—Andrew, Battle High School, age 15

There are several questions to consider here. Perhaps the most urgent one is: who would “rule” the earth—dinosaurs or humans?

Looking around today, humans have been able to create an existence at the top of the food chain, and we’ve been able to develop technologies that move us further from the natural world. Do you think humans could have evolved in this manner if we had to compete against (or run away from!) dinosaurs all day long?

“The bigger dinosaurs would be hunted and the smaller ones domesticated as animals of labor.”

—Jonathan, Battle High School, age 17

What if, instead of finding a neighbor’s dog digging a hole in your yard, you saw a triceratops digging a hole? What if, instead of being afraid of bee stings when playing outside, you had to look out for pterodactyls swooping down from the sky to scoop you up for dinner? What if every day on your way to school, you were chased by a Tyrannosaurus rex? Could you tell your teacher a T. rex ate your homework?

Where would we be today? What would be better? What would be worse?


Dino-Proof Your House

Imagine you live in a neighborhood struggling with an overpopulation of dinosaurs. They’re everywhere! Many people have come home to find dinosaurs in their yards eating their plants and leaves off their trees. Some homes have even been stepped on by dinosaurs—and crushed to smithereens, of course. What do you do? How can you save your home?

Draw a picture of what your home would look like once it’s been “dino-proofed.”


If you look around, you’ll notice that there are not many creatures that look like the ones that were alive in the time of dinosaurs. The dinosaurs went extinct and some of them were fossilized. Many, many years later, a set of apes evolved into humans, and many years after that, we started fossil hunting. Mary Anning was an expert fossil hunter.

“If dinosaurs never went extinct, humans would have very slim chances of survival with how dangerous the world around us would be. Perhaps this would create a different society that focuses more on survival and protection rather than the society we have developed in which survival isn’t always immediately on our minds.”

—Dillon, Battle High School, age 16

Sometime between 1809 and 1811, when she was only 10 to 12 years old, Anning and her brother found one of the first ichthyosaur fossils (an ichthyosaur looks kind of like a dolphin). Her whole family hunted fossils, but Anning was the most dedicated. She went on to find many other ichthyosaur fossils, but her greatest find was of the first plesiosaur (a swimming dinosaur with a long neck like a giraffe). Anning was a well versed paleontologist (person who studies fossils), an expert at finding, drawing, and analyzing skeletal remains of dinosaurs.5

Table of Contents

Preface xi

Part 1 History 1

What is Dinosaurs Hadn't Gone Extinct? 2

Activity: Dino-Proof Your House 3

What if the Mongol Empire Helped the United States' Westward Expansion? 5

What if Europeans Had Never Landed in the Americas? 7

Activity: Name a New Land 8

What if Humans Had Never Landed on the Moon? 10

Activity: Where Next? Meet Up 12

Technical Corner: Rockets and Rocket ships 12

What If You Could Travel in Time? 14

Activity: Go Back 15

Activity: Go Forward 15

Activity: Create a Time-Lapse 16

Technical Corner: Building a Time Machine 16

What if There Were Never Books? 18

Activity: Remember and Tell a Story 19

What if You Lived in a Floating City? $

Activity: Design Your Own Floating City 22

What if the State of California Became Six Different States? 24

Activity: Split Your State 25

What if the South Had Won the Civil War? 26

What if France Hadn't Helped America in the American Revolutionary War? 28

What if Poland Had Joined Germany in 1939? 30

What if the Internet Were Never Created? 32

Activity: Day without Connectivity 34

Technical Corner: The Internet 34

What if There Were No Stories? 36

Activity: A Hero's Journey 36

What if the Future Never Comes? 39

Activity: Happy/Sad List 39

Whet if the First Olympics Were a Science Competition Instead of an Athletic One? 42

What if Electricity Could Travel through the Air? 44

Activity: Wireless History 44

Technical Corner: Wireless Power 45

Part 2 People 47

What if People Lived for Only One Day? 48

Activity: Single-Day Planner 48

Activity: Record a Day of Your Life 49

What if We Could Be Young Forever? 50

Activity: Write a Letter to Yourself in the Future 51

Technical Corner: How Do We Die? 51

What if Politicians Were Kids? 53

Activity: Talk to a Politician 54

What if There Were No Holidays? 55

Activity: Your Own Holiday 56

What if You Hibernated 57

Activity: Find Your Hibernating Friends 58

What if the Jobs of the Future Were Different? 59

Activity: Read This Book, Create a New Job 60

What if We All Spoke the Same Language? 61

Activity: What's in a Good Language? 62

What If People Didn't Know Anything? 63

Activity: Test Your Knowledge 64

What If We Got Rid of Cars? 65

Activity: You Fill in the Streets 66

What if There Were No Sports? 68

Activity: Play Shnorjin 69

What if You Could Hear and See What Other People Were Thinking? 70

Activity: With the Power of Your Brain 71

Technical Corner: How to Read Thoughts 71

What if Your Community Were More Democratic? 73

Activity: More Democracy: Yes or No? 74

What if There Were No School? 75

Activity: Create Your Own Classroom 75

What if You Were Wrong about Everything? 77

Activity: Comfortably Wrong 77

What if You Wrote Computer Code? 79

Activity: Write Some Code 80

What if There Was No You? 82

Activity: Talk with Your Friends 82

What if You Became a Designer? 84

Activity: Improve Something and Prototype It 85

What If You Could Teleport Anywhere? 86

Activity: One-Way Trip to Anywhere 87

What if You Started Your Own Business? 88

Activity: Seed an Idea Notebook 89

What if Your Parents Couldn't Tell You What Was Right and Wrong? 92

Activity: Write a New Moral Code 92

What if Society Were Truly Altruistic? 93

Activity: Secret Servant Agent 93

What if You Could Move Objects with Your Brain? 95

What if You Challenged the Rules? 98

Activity: Challenge an Authority 99

What if You Kept Your Ideas to Yourself? 101

Activity: Build Your Dream Team 102

Part 3 Stuff 103

What if Nanobots Joined the Fight against Cancer? 104

What if You Had a Box That Could Make Anything? 106

Technical Corner: How 3D Printing Works 107

What if Your Phone Always Knew Where You Were? 109

Activity: Map Your Location 110

Technical Corner: GPS 111

What if Robots Looked Like People or Animals? 113

Activity: Surprise, I'm a Robot 114

What if You Had No Possessions? 115

Activity: Your Top Ten Possessions 116

What if Nanobots Turned the World into a Glob of Gray Goo? 117

What if Broccoli Tasted like Chocolate? 118

Activity: Do the Yucky! 118

Technical Corner: Taste 119

What if Solipsism Were Correct? 121

What if Awesome Didn't Exist? 123

What if You Could Get into a Machine That Created Any Experience You Wanted? 125

Activity: Short Story 125

Technical Corner: Virtual Reality 126

What if Everything Were Only Five Minutes Old? 128

Activity: Write Your Five Minutes 129

What if Everything Could Communicate? 130

Activity: Map the Connections 131

What if Your Clothes Were Smarter? 132

Activity: Fashion Designer of Future Materials 133

What if Your Phone Had Feelings? 134

Activity: Create a Comic Strip 135

What if a Picture Were Worth One Thousand Words? 136

Activity: One Thousand Words or Bust 137

What if Computers Were Conscious? 138

Activity: Watch a Science-Fiction Movie about Al 139

Technical Corner: Artificial Intelligence 139

What if Walls Could Talk? 142

Activity: Listen to the Walls 143

What if You Made Music? 144

Activity: Really. Make Organized Noise 145

Part 4 Nature 146

What if People Could Sting with their Fingers? 147

What if Time Repeated Itself? 149

What if the Sun Never Went Down? 151

Activity: Stay Up All Night 152

What if There Weren't Any Trees? 153

Activity: Plant a Tree 154

What if People Got Energy from the Sun? 155

Activity: Write a News Story 156

Technical Corner: Photosynthesis 156

What if Humans Had Elephant Noses? 158

Activity: Build Your New Nose 159

What if You Could See the Color of Nine? 160

Activity: Your New Senses 161

What if Humans Had See-Through Bodies? 163

Activity Video Voice-Over 164

What if Humans Had Skin That Changed with Their Surrounding? 165

What if You Could Give Your Pet a New Ability? 166

Activity: Draw Your New Pet 167

Technical Corner: Synthetic Biology 167

What If Ants Solved Problems Every Day? 168

Activity: Do It the Ant Way 169

What if There Were No Luck? 170

Activity: Create Your Own Superstition 171

What it You Could Travel at Almost the Speed of Light? 172

Technical Corner: Light Speed, and No Faster 173

Activity: Half Speed 173

Activity: Speedy To Dos 174

What if Humans Ate Inserts as Our Primary Source of Food? 175

Activity: Insect Menu 176

What if You Could Taste and Smell with Your Finders? 178

What if Humans Only Saw in Black and White? 180

Activity: Color Match 181

What if Everything Were an Alien Simulation? 182

What if the World of the Small Seemed Very Different from the World of the Big? 184

Technical Corner: Why the Small Is Strange and the Large Is Not 185

What if There Were No Mosquitos? 187

Activity: Food Web 188

What if All the Continents Were Joined Together? 189

Activity: Earth Puzzle 190

What if You Could Turn into an Animal? 191

Activity: Animal You! 191

What if Everything Were a Hyperiink? 192

Activity: Hyper It Up 192

What if You Had a Superpower? 194

Activity: Create the Super You 195

What if You Could Explore Outer Space? 196

Activity Sagittarius or Bust 197

What if You Could Engineer at Planetary Proportions? 198

Activity: What Would You Build That Was the Size of a Planet? 199

What if You Experienced the Unknown? 200

Activity: Real Surrealism 201

Conclusion 203

We'd Like to Say Thanks 205

Notes 207

Curious Resources 221

Customer Reviews