Guesstimation: Solving the World's Problems on the Back of a Cocktail Napkin

Guesstimation: Solving the World's Problems on the Back of a Cocktail Napkin

by Lawrence Weinstein, John A. Adam
     
 

ISBN-10: 0691129495

ISBN-13: 9780691129495

Pub. Date: 04/01/2008

Publisher: Princeton University Press

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

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Overview

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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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780691129495
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Publication date:
04/01/2008
Pages:
320
Sales rank:
514,891
Product dimensions:
4.50(w) x 7.40(h) x 0.90(d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xi

Preface xiii

Chapter 1: How to Solve Problems 1

Chapter 2: Dealing with Large Numbers 11

2.1 Scientific Notation 11

2.2 Accuracy 14

2.3 A Note on Units 16

2.4 Unit Conversion 17

Chapter 3: General Questions 19

3.1 One big family 21

3.2 Fore! 25

3.3 This is a fine pickle you've got us into, Patty 29

3.4 Throwing in the towel 31

3.5 Hey buddy, can you fill a dome? 35

3.6 A mole of cats 39

3.7 Massive MongaMillions 41

3.8 Tons of trash 43

3.9 Mt. Trashmore 47

3.10 Juggling people 51

3.11 Shelving the problem 53

Chapter 4: Animals and People 55

4.1 More numerous than the stars in the sky 57

4.2 Laboring in vein 61

4.3 Unzipping your skin 65

4.4 Hair today, gone tomorrow 69

4.5 Hot dawg! 73

4.6 Playing the field 75

4.7 Ewww. . . gross! 77

4.8 Going potty 79

4.9 Let's get one thing straight! 83

Chapter 5: Transportation 87

5.1 Driving past Saturn 89

5.2 Drowning in gasoline 91

5.3 Slowly on the highway 95

5.4 Rickshaws and automobiles 99

5.5 Horse exhaust 103

5.6 Tire tracks 107

5.7 Working for the car 109

Chapter 6: Energy and Work 113

6.1 Energy of height 114

6.1.1 Mountain climbing 115

6.1.2 Flattening the Alps 119

6.1.3 Raising a building 123

6.2 Energy of motion 126

6.2.1 At your service 127

6.2.2 Kinetic trucking 129

6.2.3 Racing continents 131

6.2.4 "To boldly go. . . " 135

6.3 Work 138

6.3.1 Crash! 139

6.3.2 Spider-Man and the subway car 143

Chapter 7: Hydrocarbons and Carbohydrates 145

7.1 Chemical energy 145

7.1.1 Energy in gasoline 147

7.1.2 Battery energy 151

7.1.3 Battery energy density 155

7.1.4 Batteries vs. gas tanks 159

7.2 Food is energy 162

7.2.1 Eat here, get gas 163

7.2.2 Farmland for ethanol 167

7.3 Power! 170

7.3.1 Hot humans 171

7.3.2 Fill 'er up with gasoline 173

7.3.3 Fill 'er up with electricity 175

Chapter 8: The Earth, the Moon, and Lots of Gerbils 179

8.1 "And yet it moves" (e pur si muove) 181

8.2 Duck! 185

8.3 Super-sized Sun 189

8.4 Sun power 193

8.5 Gerbils 1, Sun 0 197

8.6 Chemical Sun 201

8.7 Nearby supernova 205

8.8 Melting ice caps 209

Chapter 9: Energy and the Environment 213

9.1 Power to the people 215

9.2 Continental power 219

9.3 Solar energy 223

9.4 Land for solar energy 225

9.5 Tilting at windmills 229

9.6 The power of coal 233

9.7 The power of nuclei 237

9.8 Hard surfaces 239

Chapter 10: The Atmosphere 243

10.1 Into thin air 245

10.2 Ancient air 247

10.3 Suck it up 251

10.4 CO2 from coal 255

10.5 A healthy glow 259

10.6 CO2 from cars 261

10.7 Turning gas into trees 265

10.8 Turning trees into gas 269

Chapter 11: Risk 273

11.1 Gambling on the road 275

11.2 The plane truth 277

11.3 Life's a beach 279

11.4 Up in smoke 281

Chapter 12: Unanswered Questions 285

Appendix: Needed Numbers and Formulas 289

A.1 Useful Numbers 289

A.2 Handy Formulas 289

A.3 Metric Prefixes 290

B Pegs to Hang Things On 291

Bibliography 295

Index 299

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