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New Book by ODU Professors Intrigues Bloggers at Wall Street Journal Site

If brisk blog traffic about "Guesstimation: Solving the World's Problems on the Back of a Cocktail Napkin" is a reliable indicator, the new book written by Old Dominion University professors Lawrence Weinstein and John Adam will be a success in the marketplace.

The Numbers Guy blog on The Wall Street Journal Web site devoted a few hundred words to the book and the authors on May 28, and posed a couple of the questions addressed in the book. Readers were invited to quickly estimate this: "If all the humans in the world were crammed together, how much area would we require?" Another question was: "What is the external surface area of a typical person?"

Bloggers offered up dozens of ways to devise estimates, and Weinstein, a nuclear physicist, and Adam, a mathematician, joined in the virtual discussion. The bloggers continued to send in "guesstimations" and comments for several days. (See http://blogs.wsj.com/numbersguy/numbers-guy-quiz-guesstimation-345/.)

A few weeks earlier, a posting on the Marginal Revolution blog elicited a similar string of responses. Favorable reviews on Amazon.com, and in other local and national publications, also have stirred interest in the book.

A spokeswoman for Princeton University Press said sales between the April 21 release and the end of May were well over 5,000 copies. "This is an excellent start," she added.

In 12 chapters and more than 80 "guesstimation" examples, the book explains how to make useful ballpark estimates by breaking complex problems into more manageable ones. Policymakers dealing with complex numbers about pollutants in the atmosphere or businesspeople struggling with investment decisions can learn from the book to keep their thinking on plausible tracks. Numeric literacy is in high demand in today's numbers saturated world, so much so that more and more businesses are asking estimation questions in employment interviews to test applicants' abilities to think on their feet.

The Numbers Guy in The Wall Street Journal noted in his comments about the usefulness of the book, "Employers value an ability to quickly make estimates under pressure."

Business consultants have been quick to realize the book's potential usefulness as a problem-solving tutorial. In one endorsement, Martin Yate, the author of the "Knock 'Em Dead" job-search and career-management books, wrote: "Wow, I suddenly grasped concepts that have eluded me for a lifetime. If you work anywhere in the professional world and are aiming for the corner office, this little book could have significant impact on both your analytical abilities and the way you are perceived by others."

This article was posted on: June 2, 2008

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