# Meet Up: Madison: Rough Numbers

19 July 2012 07:13AM

WHEN: 22 July 2012 07:00:00PM (-0500)

WHERE: 302 S Mills St, Apt 5, Madison, WI

Note: If it's convenient, and you have a smartphone, laptop, or tablet, bring it. We'll want to be able to all look up data efficiently, and I want some folks to run races against calculators. :)

I have a whole slew of stuff I'd like to talk about, and possibly even some things to test.

Short topics we'll cover:

• Fermi problems: How to get rough numbers for things you're interested in, without actually knowing much hard data.
• Fast mental math: How to compute Fermi estimates in your head, quickly.
• Value of information: How to estimate when doing more work to find more information is likely to be useful.

Some tests/experiments/kind-of-games I'd like to try:

• Is fast mental math actually useful if you have a glowing rectangle handy? I suspect it is, and will happily race some calculators to see if it is so.
• In what situations do Fermi estimates even make sense? Do we have questions that are actually better answered with roughly-guessed numbers, rather than data from the nearest source of internet?

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Comment author: 24 July 2012 10:47:07PM 0 points [-]

"Do we have questions that are actually better answered with roughly-guessed numbers, rather than data from the nearest source of internet?"

INDEED. Wherever the best data is still data we've great reason to be suspicious of, for starters. (I can spoil whatever I want now that the meetup has occurred!)

I'd love to hear a report of what else y'all brainstormed for that question.

Comment author: 24 July 2012 10:43:49PM 1 point [-]

Then one day a salesman came along to the camp. He had a steam-powered drill and claimed it could out-drill any man. Well, they set up a contest then and there between John Henry and that there drill. The foreman ran that newfangled steam-drill. John Henry, he just pulled out two 20-pound hammers, one in each hand. They drilled and drilled, dust rising everywhere. The men were howling and cheering. At the end of 35 minutes, John Henry had drilled two seven foot holes - a total of fourteen feet, while the steam drill had only drilled one nine-foot hole.

fiddlemath held up his hammers in triumph!

Comment author: 21 July 2012 05:08:28PM 1 point [-]

Hi. I'm new here, and live in the area. Can anyone just drop by these meetups?

Comment author: 21 July 2012 08:07:52PM 1 point [-]

Certainly!

On the other hand, this is at someone's apartment, and I know that might be an odd way to first meet folks. If you prefer, the next meetup will probably be at a coffee shop; in general, I'll schedule meetups in public places at least once a month.

Then again, if you're interested, and unfazed by the setting, then feel free to drop in!

Comment author: 19 July 2012 03:26:14PM 0 points [-]

Count me prolly in!

Comment author: 20 July 2012 07:45:18PM 0 points [-]

Wait, no! NGR is this sunday. :/

Comment author: 21 July 2012 08:09:07PM 0 points [-]

NGR?

Comment author: 22 July 2012 05:11:07AM 1 point [-]