Quantify!: A Crash Course in Smart Thinking

Overview

Göran Grimvall is determined to help mere mortals understand how scientists get to the kernel of perplexing problems. Entertaining and enlightening, his latest book uses examples from sports, literature, and nature-as well as from the varied worlds of science-to illustrate how scientists make sense of and explain the world around us.

These fun-to-read essays and easy-to-follow examples detail how order-of-magnitude estimation, extreme cases, dimensional analysis, and other ...

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Quantify!: A Crash Course in Smart Thinking

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Overview

Göran Grimvall is determined to help mere mortals understand how scientists get to the kernel of perplexing problems. Entertaining and enlightening, his latest book uses examples from sports, literature, and nature-as well as from the varied worlds of science-to illustrate how scientists make sense of and explain the world around us.

These fun-to-read essays and easy-to-follow examples detail how order-of-magnitude estimation, extreme cases, dimensional analysis, and other modeling methods work. They also reveal how nonscientists absorb these concepts and use them at home, school, and work.

Grimvall's simple, elegant explanations will help you tap into your inner scientist. Read this book and enjoy your own "Aha!" moment.

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Editorial Reviews

SIAM News
Grimvall's book should appeal to and amuse a wide audience, extending from professional scientists, teachres, school kids, newspaper columnists to the... average citizen.

— Philip J. Davis

Popular Science
An excellent piece of work with lots of fascinating information inside.

— Brian Clegg

Midwest Book Review

Essays are fun, involving... and will appeal to both general readers and collections from high school into college grades.

Choice

A wonderful read for everyone, emphasizing how scientists and engineers tend to think about examples from daily life that are expressed by numbers... Highly recommended.

Popular Science - Brian Clegg

An excellent piece of work with lots of fascinating information inside.

SIAM News - Philip J. Davis

Grimvall's book should appeal to and amuse a wide audience, extending from professional scientists, teachres, school kids, newspaper columnists to the... average citizen.

Science News

A fun survey of the use of numbers to make sound judgments, from gravity’s effects on sports records to statistical analysis of the weather.

Choice

A wonderful read for everyone, emphasizing how scientists and engineers tend to think about examples from daily life that are expressed by numbers... Highly recommended.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801897177
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Publication date: 12/1/2010
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 232
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Göran Grimvall is professor emeritus of physics at the Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm. An elected member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences, he is the author of a number of popular physics books, including Brainteaser Physics, also published by Johns Hopkins.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Table of Contents

Preface ix

1 Numbers 1

1.1 Numerical Literacy 1

Babylon, Babble, and Billion 1

Prefixes 3

What Is the Point? 5

1.2 The Power of Logarithms 7

Order of Magnitude 7

Hot Air Balloons and Renard Numbers 9

Finding Fraud in Figures 11

1.3 What Is Typical? 14

The Height of an Adult 14

Social Competence and Personal Encounters 17

Hit by Returning Rocket 19

1.4 Estimates 21

Is Anybody Out There? 21

Sand, Sibyl, Olympic Medals, and Homeopathy 24

Cover the Earth with Paper 27

2 Measures 30

2.1 What Is It on a Scale? 30

The Richter Scale 30

Nuclear Incidents and Accidents 32

Natural Threats 35

2.2 Comparing Apples and Oranges 38

Human Well-Being and Poverty 38

Track and Field 40

At Scout Camp 42

2.3 Units 44

Going Metric-Inch by Inch 44

Horsepower and Manpower 46

The Loss of a Spacecraft 48

2.4 On the Road 51

Left-Hand Traffic 51

The Value of a Life 53

Gasoline Here and There 55

3 Accuracy and Significance 58

3.1 Could You Be More Precise, Please? 58

What Is Austria's Population? 58

A Slim Waist 59

Man on the Moon 62

3.2 Significant? 64

Flunking 64

A Change in Opinion 66

Error Bars 68

3.3 Limit Values 71

Will Your iPod Make You Deaf? 71

Lethal Dose 73

The Weakest Link 75

3.4 Fair Games? 79

Winning by a Small Margin 79

Accurate Timing 81

Are All Sports Venues Equivalent? 83

4 Extrapolations 86

4.1 The Dangerous Exponential 86

The Rule of 72 86

A Problematic Reward 87

Suddenly Nothing Was Left 90

4.2 The Ubiquitous Straight Line 92

Dubious Extrapolations 92

Moore's Law 94

Low Radiation Level and Cancer 96

4.3 Scaling 99

Big and Small Fish 99

Gulliver 100

Roasting a Turkey 102

4.4 Looking Ahead 104

The Law of Diminishing Returns 104

The Sign of the Second Derivative 106

Lynx and Hare 109

5 Models 112

5.1 What Are the Chances? 112

Proofreading 112

Losing a Leg 113

Sunday Traffic 115

5.2 Seeking the Optimum 117

Tax Rates and the Autobahn 117

Running to the Rescue 119

Selecting the Best Golf Club 121

5.3 Focus on the Essential 124

How Small Can a Mouse Be? 124

The Age of the Earth 126

A Loud Party 128

5.4 A Law or a Model? 130

Ohm's Law Is Not a Law 130

A Mad Pursuit 132

Is Coulomb's Law Exact? 135

6 The Real World 138

6.1 Plausible, but Not Correct 138

The Unridable Bicycle 138

Church Windows and Lead Roofs 140

The Bathtub Vortex 142

6.2 You See What You Want to See 145

Waves Are Rolling In 145

Galileo Galilei's Trial 147

Submarines and Mink 148

6.3 Suddenly Something Happens 151

Fishing Nets, Coffee Percolators, and the Web 151

Goethe and the Height of Trees 153

Supercooled Rain and Critical Mass 156

6.4 Engineering versus Science 158

Slapstick 158

Not a Schoolbook Problem 160

Hoisting a Sack 163

7 Tricks of the Trade 166

7.1 A Crash Course in Science Thinking 166

Dinghy, Anchor, and Pool 166

Up and Down the Escalator 168

The Floating Apple 170

7.2 Is the Formula Accurate Enough? 172

Obesity 172

Wind Chill Temperature 174

The Size of a Ship 176

7.3 Characteristic Quantities 178

How Deep Is Deep? 178

The Coldest Day of the Year 180

Galileo Galilei, Basketball, and Table Tennis 182

7.4 Impress Them! 184

What Is Your BMI? 184

The Aeolian Harp 186

One Trick and Two Areas 188

Epilogue: Seven Principles in Scientific Literacy 191

Notes 199

Index 211

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