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How Many Licks?: Or, How to Estimate Damn Near Anything Paperback – August 25, 2009

3.8 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Danica McKellar, actress and author of Math Doesn’t Suck and Kiss My Math
“Never before have I seen a book that could so effectively prepare a person to create their own depository of party trivia while brushing up on math skills. Nice!”

American Profile, October 4, 2009
“No matter how you feel about math, Santos' puzzle-solving prowess shows you just how much you can do when you put on your thinking cap.”

Review

Danica McKellar, actress and author of Math Doesn’t Suck and Kiss My Math
“Never before have I seen a book that could so effectively prepare a person to create their own depository of party trivia while brushing up on math skills. Nice!”

American Profile, October 4, 2009
“No matter how you feel about math, Santos' puzzle-solving prowess shows you just how much you can do when you put on your thinking cap.”
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Running Press (August 25, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0762435607
  • ISBN-13: 978-0762435609
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 6.1 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #319,273 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition
First off let me say that the topics chosen as illustrative examples are hilarious. There is just the right mix of geekiness and human interest. That being said I had hoped to read more about what constitutes a reasonable assumption since I was already competent at dimensional analysis. This book is just a collection of entertaining examples.

In addition the Kindle edition has very poor proofreading. Several words are missing letters and these errors could have been caught simply by running a spelling check. I am disappointed.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm not sure what I was expecting when I ordered this book, but I must admit that the clincher (for me, anyway) was the set of example questions listed on the product description - you have to admit, they were funny and intriguing.

Having read the book, I don't think I'm much better at "estimating damn near anything". In the first chapter, the book gives you some advice on how to start addressing a question - any question of approximation - and the rest of the book provides many exercises.

The gist of advice on approximating anything is: take a guess! How many dirt bike racers are in New York? Well, round up the total population of New York, apply exponential notation, decide on a reasonable maximum and minimum possible number of racers, etc.

Of course, there are some questions within the book that require knowledge of specific values, such as the elasticity of rubber, the pull of gravity, and the distance between the Earth and the Moon. For these questions you'll find the values at the back of the book. For other such values in real life just hope you paid attention in school.

There is no secret art in guesstimating anything - either take an educated guess or use some degree of common sense. I was hoping for something new to take away from this book, but found very little.

The sample problems presented in the book are great, though, and it has a very good format.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Great book for learning the famous estimation techniques of intellectual giant Enrico Fermi. An absolute must for anyone trying to impersonate a physicist at cocktail parties.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Interesting book that walks you through how to estimate things that seem impossible to estimate. I use this for reference and ideas to give to students at the beginning of the semester to assist them with estimating skills. One of my favorites that works for my college students as well as when I volunteered to assist 4th graders... how long would it take to eat the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man?
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Definitely a fun, light read. It is lacking in that I wanted more of the fun math problems, such as, how long would it take 3 grown men to eat the Michelin Tire Man if he were made of marshmallows. I did appreciate the wittiness of the writing, but only gave it 4 stars as it really is an entire book about estimation. It was a little preachy for a book about something with clear, set parameters. I would, however read more if this turned into a series including books about Parabolas (How to keep from approaching an asymptote.) Read it on a plane.
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Format: Paperback
I really enjoyed how the book made math seem fun by answering silly questions. The author also broke down how to do the calculations and gave you the correct answer (just in case you couldn't get it). This is a must for anyone who likes to solve riddles/problems.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The book showns many good examples of using the Fermi approach to solving problems. The idea is to get results with the right order of magnitude. How many hairs are in our head, how long is the DNA, and so...

Pretty interesting
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Format: Paperback
More than a great peace of interesting estimations, Santo's book constitutes a very delightful reading. It helps breaking the idea that math is complicated and shows that, even questions that sound randomly difficult to estimate, can in fact be roughly approximated by a sequence of steps known as Fermi method.

I highly recommend it for teachers, students and all science inclined public.
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