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Guesstimation: Solving the World's Problems on the Back of a Cocktail Napkin Paperback – 21 Apr 2008

3.9 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; with French flaps edition (21 April 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691129495
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691129495
  • Product Dimensions: 10.8 x 1.9 x 18.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 387,432 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Review

Dr. Adam and his colleague Lawrence Weinstein, a professor of physics, offer a wide and often amusing assortment of Fermi flexes in a book that just caught my eye, Guesstimation: Solving the World's Problems on the Back of a Cocktail Napkin.---Natalie Angier, New York Times

An important skill of great use . . . is the ability to derive an approximate result from insufficient data. Guesstimation is a collection of [problems] gathered from everyday life and various fields. Working out questions . . . is both entertaining and enlightening. It may also help foster your career . . . because making correct guesses quickly establishes your reputation as an expert.---Stephan Mertens, Science

This book is a stimulating collection that will help the reader to reach informed judgments and will be a useful source of inspiration for mathematics and physics teachers: my only concern is that if my students have read it before they arrive at university, I may have to find a new approach to my first day's teaching.---Tony Mann, Times Higher Education

While few can hope to emulate the brilliance of a Nobel Prize winner like [Enrico] Fermi, coming up with pretty good guesstimates is a skill that can be taught. And that's the aim of Guesstimation. After a quick tutorial, the authors get down to business with a host of wide-ranging worked examples, from estimating the numbers of piano tuners in Los Angeles to figuring out the impact of deforestation on greenhouse gas levels. The results are sometimes surprising.---Robert Matthews, BBC Focus Magazine

[Guesstimation is] a left-brain book that helps you approximate answers to the types of questions actually asked in some job interviews today.---Peter Coy, BusinessWeek

[A] delightful account of mathematical approximation, which instills the beauty and power of the back-of-the-envelope calculation. The puzzles make addictive confidence builders by breaking down tricky questions into manageable parts. Never again will you take a newspaper figure at face value without feeling the need, and confidence, to guesstimate your own figure.---Matthew Killeya, New Scientist

Guesstimation is both enlightening and entertaining. I recommend it to my fellow journalists both as a tool of our trade and as a mind stretcher.---Rony V. Diaz, Manila Times

Any idea what fraction of land in the US is covered by either a roof or pavement? Known as a Fermi problem, this type of question requires the use of reasonable estimation, which is the focus of the book at hand. In the initial chapters, Weinstein and Adam briefly review good 'guesstimation' techniques involving numbers and explain why the use of the geometric mean is preferred over the arithmetic mean.---J. Johnson, Choice

Physics educators can use this book as a guide to including the important skill of estimation in their courses. Students may find the power of estimation to be a valuable skill and will want to work their way through this book.---Arthur Eisenkrafr, American Journal of Physics

A source of imaginative problems, this book would make a nice addition to a mathematics department library.---Diane Resek, Mathematics Teacher

Synopsis

"Guesstimation" is a book that unlocks the power of approximation - it's popular mathematics rounded to the nearest power of ten! The ability to estimate is an important skill in daily life. More and more leading businesses today use estimation questions in interviews to test applicants' abilities to think on their feet. "Guesstimation" enables anyone with basic math and science skills to estimate virtually anything - quickly - using plausible assumptions and elementary arithmetic. Lawrence Weinstein and John Adam present an eclectic array of estimation problems that range from devilishly simple to quite sophisticated and from serious real-world concerns to downright silly ones.How long would it take a running faucet to fill the inverted dome of the Capitol? What is the total length of all the pickles consumed in the US in one year? What are the relative merits of internal-combustion and electric cars, of coal and nuclear energy? The problems are marvelously diverse, yet the skills to solve them are the same.The authors show how easy it is to derive useful ballpark estimates by breaking complex problems into simpler, more manageable ones - and how there can be many paths to the right answer.

The book is written in a question-and-answer format with lots of hints along the way. It includes a handy appendix summarizing the few formulas and basic science concepts needed, and its small size and French-fold design make it conveniently portable. Illustrated with humorous pen-and-ink sketches, "Guesstimation" will delight popular-math enthusiasts and is ideal for the classroom.

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