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'Guesstimation 2.0' Is New Book by Weinstein

weinstein-edwardsArtist Patti Edwards and Lawrence Weinstein

"Guesstimation: Solving the World's Problems on the Back of a Cocktail Napkin" garnered lots of attention for its authors, Old Dominion University professors Lawrence Weinstein and John Adam, when it was published in 2008.

Now Weinstein has gone solo in producing the follow-up, "Guesstimation 2.0: Solving Today's Problems on the Back of a Napkin," which began arriving in bookstores Oct. 24.

The new book, like the first one, is published by Princeton University Press and presents a series of problems for which "ballpark" solutions can be calculated by using plausible assumptions and arithmetic.

"Guesstimation 2.0" reveals the simple and effective techniques needed to estimate virtually anything - quickly - and illustrates them using an eclectic array of problems with titles such as "Monkeys and Shakespeare" and "Beam the Energy Down, Scotty!"

Princeton University Press is promoting the book as a "stimulating follow-up to 'Guesstimation'... (a) must-have book for anyone preparing for a job interview in technology or finance, where more and more leading businesses test applicants using estimation questions just like these."

As Weinstein points out, the ability to guesstimate on your feet is an essential skill to have in today's world, whether you're trying to distinguish between a billion-dollar subsidy and a trillion-dollar stimulus, a megawatt wind turbine and a gigawatt nuclear plant, or parts-per-million and parts-per-billion contaminants. "Anyone can apply these techniques to understand a range of important issues without relying on 'fact checkers' and other so-called experts."

Indeed, a recent survey by Peter D. Hart Research Associations found that among the top 10 attributes employers look for in new college graduates are four centering on problem solving: the ability to understand numbers and statistics; the ability to think clearly about complex problems; the ability to be creative and innovative in solving problems; and the ability to apply knowledge and skills in new settings.

Weinstein begins the new book with a concise tutorial on how to solve order of magnitude problems, and then invites readers to have a go themselves. The book features dozens of problems along with helpful hints and easy-to-understand solutions. It also includes appendixes containing useful formulas. Among the problems are ones dealing with the amount of fuel used to transport your food from the farm to the store, and the total length of all toilet paper used in the United States.

The book includes nearly 100 drawings by Patti Edwards, a senior art lecturer at ODU.

Weinstein is an Eminent Professor and a University Professor of physics at ODU. He conducts research in nuclear physics at the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility in Newport News.

The original "Guesstimation" was the subject of media reports in The New York Times, Science magazine, Nature Physics journal, Games magazine, The Wall Street Journal, Business Week and BBC Focus Magazine. In addition to English, the book appeared in Japanese, Chinese and Italian language editions.

Reviews of the new book indicate it will be a worldwide success also. "This follow-up to the popular 'Guesstimation' offers more on the joy of mathematical estimation, and inspiration for the budding analyst," wrote a reviewer for the prestigious journal Nature.

Paul J. Nahin, author of "Number-Crunching: Taming Unruly Computational Problems from Mathematical Physics to Science Fiction," wrote: "This is an absolutely great book. ...The breadth of scope of the problems is truly impressive. Weinstein's arguments are always convincing and, in many cases, very clever. His sense of humor provides a pain-free tutorial on how analysts can make real progress in understanding vaguely defined problems."

Adam, University Professor of mathematics and statistics at ODU and the co-author of the original book, also published a new book this year, "X and the City: The Mathematics of Urban Life." It is from Princeton University Press.