Stanford EE 204 - Order-of-Magnitude Physics (28 pages)

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Order-of-Magnitude Physics



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Order-of-Magnitude Physics

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Lecture Notes


Pages:
28
School:
Stanford University
Course:
Ee 204 - Business Management for Electrical Engineers and Computer Scientists
Business Management for Electrical Engineers and Computer Scientists Documents

Unformatted text preview:

Order of Magnitude Physics Understanding the World with Dimensional Analysis Educated Guesswork and White Lies Sanjoy Mahajan University of Cambridge Sterl Phinney California Institute of Technology Peter Goldreich Institute for Advanced Study Copyright c 1995 2006 Send comments to sanjoy mrao cam ac uk Draft of 2006 03 20 23 51 19 rev 22987c8b4860 ii Contents 1 Wetting your feet 1 1 1 Armored cars 1 1 2 Cost of lighting Pasadena California 1 3 Pasadena s budget 11 1 4 Diaper production 12 1 5 Meteorite impacts 14 1 6 What you have learned 16 1 7 Exercises 17 2 Some financial math 18 2 1 Rule of 72 18 2 2 Mortgages A first approximation 2 3 Realistic mortgages 21 2 4 Short term limit 22 2 5 Long term limit 23 2 6 What you have learned 24 2 7 Exercises 25 Bibliography 26 2006 03 20 23 51 19 rev 22987c8b4860 19 9 1 1 Wetting your feet Most technical education emphasizes exact answers If you are a physicist you solve for the energy levels of the hydrogen atom to six decimal places If you are a chemist you measure reaction rates and concentrations to two or three decimal places In this book you learn complementary skills You learn that an approximate answer is not merely good enough it s often more useful than an exact answer When you approach an unfamiliar problem you want to learn first the main ideas and the important principles because these ideas and principles structure your understanding of the problem It is easier to refine this understanding than to create the refined analysis in one step The adjective in the title of the book order of magnitude reflects our emphasis on approximation An order of magnitude is a factor of 10 To be within an order of magnitude or to estimate a quantity to order of magnitude means that your estimate is roughly within a factor of 10 on either side This chapter introduces the art of determining such approximations Writer s block is broken by writing estimator s block is broken by estimating So we begin our study of approximation



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