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Guesstimation

Book Description

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.

Table of Contents

  1. Cover
  2. Title Page
  3. Copyright
  4. Dedication
  5. Contents
  6. Acknowledgments
  7. Preface
  8. Chapter 1: How to Solve Problems
  9. Chapter 2: Dealing with Large Numbers
    1. 2.1 Scientific Notation
    2. 2.2 Accuracy
    3. 2.3 A Note on Units
    4. 2.4 Unit Conversion
  10. Chapter 3: General Questions
    1. 3.1 One big family
    2. 3.2 Fore!
    3. 3.3 This is a fine pickle you’ve got us into, Patty
    4. 3.4 Throwing in the towel
    5. 3.5 Hey buddy, can you fill a dome?
    6. 3.6 A mole of cats
    7. 3.7 Massive MongaMillions
    8. 3.8 Tons of trash
    9. 3.9 Mt. Trashmore
    10. 3.10 Juggling people
    11. 3.11 Shelving the problem
  11. Chapter 4: Animals and People
    1. 4.1 More numerous than the stars in the sky
    2. 4.2 Laboring in vein
    3. 4.3 Unzipping your skin
    4. 4.4 Hair today, gone tomorrow
    5. 4.5 Hot dawg!
    6. 4.6 Playing the field
    7. 4.7 Ewww … gross!
    8. 4.8 Going potty
    9. 4.9 Let’s get one thing straight!
  12. Chapter 5: Transportation
    1. 5.1 Driving past Saturn
    2. 5.2 Drowning in gasoline
    3. 5.3 Slowly on the highway
    4. 5.4 Rickshaws and automobiles
    5. 5.5 Horse exhaust
    6. 5.6 Tire tracks
    7. 5.7 Working for the car
  13. Chapter 6: Energy and Work
    1. 6.1 Energy of height
      1. 6.1.1 Mountain climbing
      2. 6.1.2 Flattening the Alps
      3. 6.1.3 Raising a building
    2. 6.2 Energy of motion
      1. 6.2.1 At your service
      2. 6.2.2 Kinetic trucking
      3. 6.2.3 Racing continents
      4. 6.2.4 “To boldly go …”
    3. 6.3 Work
      1. 6.3.1 Crash!
      2. 6.3.2 Spider-Man and the subway car
  14. Chapter 7: Hydrocarbons and Carbohydrates
    1. 7.1 Chemical energy
      1. 7.1.1 Energy in gasoline
      2. 7.1.2 Battery energy
      3. 7.1.3 Battery energy density
      4. 7.1.4 Batteries vs. gas tanks
    2. 7.2 Food is energy
      1. 7.2.1 Eat here, get gas
      2. 7.2.2 Farmland for ethanol
    3. 7.3 Power!
      1. 7.3.1 Hot humans
      2. 7.3.2 Fill ‘er up with gasoline
      3. 7.3.3 Fill ‘er up with electricity
  15. Chapter 8: The Earth, the Moon, and Lots of Gerbils
    1. 8.1 “And yet it moves” (e pur si muove)
    2. 8.2 Duck!
    3. 8.3 Super-sized Sun
    4. 8.4 Sun power
    5. 8.5 Gerbils 1, Sun 0
    6. 8.6 Chemical Sun
    7. 8.7 Nearby supernova
    8. 8.8 Melting ice caps
  16. Chapter 9: Energy and the Environment
    1. 9.1 Power to the people
    2. 9.2 Continental power
    3. 9.3 Solar energy
    4. 9.4 Land for solar energy
    5. 9.5 Tilting at windmills
    6. 9.6 The power of coal
    7. 9.7 The power of nuclei
    8. 9.8 Hard surfaces
  17. Chapter 10: The Atmosphere
    1. 10.1 Into thin air
    2. 10.2 Ancient air
    3. 10.3 Suck it up
    4. 10.4 CO2 from coal
    5. 10.5 A healthy glow
    6. 10.6 CO2 from cars
    7. 10.7 Turning gas into trees
    8. 10.8 Turning trees into gas
  18. Chapter 11: Risk
    1. 11.1 Gambling on the road
    2. 11.2 The plane truth
    3. 11.3 Life’s a beach
    4. 11.4 Up in smoke
  19. Chapter 12: Unanswered Questions
  20. Appendix A: Needed Numbers and Formulas
    1. A.1 Useful Numbers
    2. A.2 Handy Formulas
    3. A.3 Metric Prefixes
  21. Appendix B: Pegs to Hang Things On
  22. Bibliography
  23. Index