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how to solve a Fermi problem

Fri 08 November 2019

A lot of annoying irrelevant interview questions are Fermi questions. (Enrico Fermi was a famous nuclear physicist.) A Fermi question is one where there's some real answer that you could get by carrying out an arduous and possibly ridiculous procedure, but making a good guess and showing your work will be just as good and be much less effort. Interviewers sometimes like to pose questions of this type "to see how you think", but their actual motivation is a combination of finding out if you are reasonably numerate -- and perhaps for the feeling of superiority they can derive from your failure.

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