**Giovanni Zanzotto**

Department of General Psychology, University of Padova

Email: giovanni.zanzotto[at]unipd.it

**SSD: **

MAT/07

**Aim:**

We hear numbers everywhere, are they good, are they bad? The deficit of a country is 1 trillion Euro. We consume 175 liters of water every day. Do these figures make sense? How should we respond? This class gives introductory lessons to order-of magnitude estimation, with opportunity to practice in reference to one’s environment at the widest separations of scales, from molecules to astronomical objects.

**Course content:**

Techniques aiming at obtaining order-of-magnitude estimates for disparate problems ('Fermi problems'), so as to learn how to derive approximate results from few or seemingly insufficient data. These techniques also instruct about the importance of clearly identifying one's working hypotheses and assumptions.

**Syllabus:**

- Scientific notation to manage data

- The meaning of very small and very large numbers

- Accuracy

- Making use of available information

- Educated approximation and guessing

- Breaking down problems into manageable steps ("divide and conquer")

- Scaling arguments

- Bounding and using arithmetic or geometric averages

**Course requirements:**

None beyond basic concepts of mathematics and physics

**Examination and grading:**

None

**Schedule:**

8 MAR 2016, 10:00-12:00 seminar room 2DPSS, via Venezia 8 (first floor, near the elevator)

9 MAR 2016, 10:00-12:00 seminar room 1DPSS, via Venezia 8 (ground floor, on the left when accessing the building from the main entrance)

15 MAR 2016, 10:00-12:00 seminar room 1DPSS, via Venezia 8 (ground floor, on the left when accessing the building from the main entrance)

16 MAR 2016, 10:00-12:00 seminar room 1DPG, via Venezia 8 (ground floor, on the right when accessing the building from the main entrance)