Concept

Back-of-the-envelope calculation

Summary
A back-of-the-envelope calculation is a rough calculation, typically jotted down on any available scrap of paper such as an envelope. It is more than a guess but less than an accurate calculation or mathematical proof. The defining characteristic of back-of-the-envelope calculations is the use of simplified assumptions. A similar phrase in the U.S. is "back of a napkin", also used in the business world to describe sketching out a quick, rough idea of a business or product. In British English, a similar idiom is "back of a fag packet". History In the natural sciences, back-of-the-envelope calculation is often associated with physicist Enrico Fermi, who was well known for emphasizing ways that complex scientific equations could be approximated within an order of magnitude using simple calculations. He went on to develop a series of sample calculations, which are called "Fermi Questions" or "Back-of-the-Envelope Calculations" and used to solve Fermi problems. Fermi was know
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