Methods of approximation?
August 12, 2014 9:34 AM Subscribe
I've never been very good at either math or at eyeballing things like weight or dimension, but was thinking recently about how to more or less accurately weigh things without using a scale. What good methods are out there to approximate other kinds of measurements?
posted by OverlappingElvis to Education (11 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
For weight, I figured the easiest way is to start with a known weight that can be easily divided (say a bag of sand), and that's heavier than what you're weighing. Compare it with what you want to measure. If it feels too heavy, divide it in half, set one half aside, and compare that. If it's too light, split the other half, set part aside, add that to your reference weight, and so on.
I realize this is super basic stuff that was figured out a long time ago and is in some sense just using your hands as a scale, but it seems interesting how precise you could be as long as you were it accurately and knew how heavy the reference was to start. Also, the fractions you end up with at the end are easy to add up since they all have powers of two at the bottom. Is there a name for this kind of thing (continually splitting in half and adding back the fractional parts to get closer to what you want)? And is there a more generalized technique here that applies easily to estimating other kinds of things?