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How Many Licks? Or, How to Estimate Damn Near Anything

Aaron Santos
Publisher: 
Running Press
Publication Date: 
2009
Number of Pages: 
175
Format: 
Paperback
Price: 
14.95
ISBN: 
9780762435609
Category: 
General
[Reviewed by
Collin Carbno
, on
10/10/2009
]

Aaron Santos’ book on the Fermi Method of approximation is simply delightful. It gives 70 fun examples of estimation questions on topics ranging from sex (how many people are having sex right now?) to environmental issues (how much land area required to power US with solar power?). For the more serious student, the introduction expertly explains the methodology behind the Fermi method and why approximation is a valuable tool.

One minor oversight is that there is no index of topics. If you decide to show a friend that neat example you read the day before, you will end up flipping through the whole book to find it.

While the Fermi method is widely taught in physics courses, most politicians could probably benefit from more use of it. I’d recommend buying your representative a copy.

Stumped for a Christmas or birthday gift for that hard-to-satisfy friend? This book is entertaining and fun enough to meet the need.


Collin Carbno is a specialist in process improvement and methodology. He holds a Master’s of Science Degree in theoretical physics and completed course work for Ph.D. in theoretical physics (relativistic rotating stars) in 1979 at the University of Regina. He has been employed for nearly 30 years in various IT and process work at Saskatchewan Telecommunications and currently holds a Professional Physics Designation from the Canadian Association of Physicists, and the Information System Professional designation from the Canadian Information Process Society.

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