The Art of Approximation in Science and Engineering

Circular water ripples on a pond produced by drops of rain.

Water waves produced by drops of rain spread in all directions. Learn more in Chapter 10 of the readings. (Image courtesy of Stephen Cannon on Flickr.)


MIT Course Number

6.055J / 2.038J

As Taught In

Spring 2008



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Course Description

Course Features

Course Description

This course teaches simple reasoning techniques for complex phenomena: divide and conquer, dimensional analysis, extreme cases, continuity, scaling, successive approximation, balancing, cheap calculus, and symmetry. Applications are drawn from the physical and biological sciences, mathematics, and engineering. Examples include bird and machine flight, neuron biophysics, weather, prime numbers, and animal locomotion. Emphasis is on low-cost experiments to test ideas and on fostering curiosity about phenomena in the world.

Related Content

Sanjoy Mahajan. 6.055J The Art of Approximation in Science and Engineering. Spring 2008. Massachusetts Institute of Technology: MIT OpenCourseWare, License: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA.

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