A type of problem in which insufficient information is available to accurately solve the problem. Instead, the solver
makes educated guesses
about subcomponents of the problem, and uses these to reach a rough order of magnitude
solution. If several people independently reach a solution, you can achieve a more precise answer by combining their answers
Named after Enrico Fermi.
Some sample Fermi Problems:
- How many hairs are on your head?
- Unknown factors: Hair density, surface area of scalp.
- How many pennies are handing to or from supermarket checkout clerks in a given day?
- Unknown factors: sales per day, percentage of cash sales, percentage of sales with precise change given to clerk.
- Number of piano tuners in Pittsburgh
- How many residents in Pittsburgh, how many pianos per capita, how many pianos serviceable by a given tuner.
- In the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake in California, approximately 2 million books fell off the shelves at the Stanford University library. If you were the library administrator and wanted to hire enough part-time student labor to put the books back on the shelves in order in 2 weeks, how many students would you have to hire? (You may assume that the books just fell off the shelves and got a bit mixed up but books in different aisles did NOT get shuffled together.)
- How many atoms of Jesus do you eat every day?
- And no, communion wafers do not count.
For more Fermi Problems, see: http://www.physics.umd.edu/rgroups/ripe/perg/fermi.html