"Never before have I seen a book that could so effectively prepare a person to create their own depository of party trivia while brushing up on math skills. Nice!"

            —Danica McKellar, actress and author of Math Doesn't Suck and Kiss My Math

"The author puts his doctorate degree in physics to entertaining use...Santos' puzzle-solving prowess shows you just how much you can do when you put on your thinking cap."

            —Neil Pond, American Profile

"It's a well-done book and a fun read..."

            —Chad Orzel, in a review on his Uncertain Principles blog.

"[Fermi peroblems] are easy and one of the more powerful and useful tools that everyone should have in their mathematical toolbox."

            —Rob Sparks in a review on The Half-Astrophysicist Blog.

"How Many Licks? would seem to be a fun way to get young (or maybe even not-so-young) people interested in math and science. "

            —Alan Reifman in a review on his Watered Down Physics blog.

A nice "local boy makes good" write up by The Standard Times.

"Anyone who harbors a preconception that only those blessed to commune with the forces of mathematics can hope to divine the answers to questions like 'How long of a line can you draw with one pen before it runs out of ink?' should totally read this book."

            —Mark Zhang in a The Tech.

"This book is beyond cool."

            —Corey Evans in a posting on his The Process blog. (Full Disclosure: Corey’s my buddy.)

Events and Appearances

Radio Interview

The Naked Scientists

Podcast available here.

Radio Interview

Groks Science Radio Show and Podcast

Podcast available here.

Authors @ Google

Ann Arbor, MI

Video available here.

Morning News Guest

WXYZ-TV Detroit

Video available here.


Ann Arbor, MI

For details, click here. (My talk starts about 35 minutes in.)


Q: Why did you write How Many Licks?

A: Far too often, I've heard people say they love science but didn't study it because they ''couldn't do the math.'' I'm certainly not here to argue that math is easy. (Even some of the simple problems in this book are pretty cumbersome if you haven't done algebra in awhile.) That said, most of the people who survive in this field aren't math supergeniuses. They survive (and even thrive) because they're able to think about problems in a way that relates to them. This book is my small attempt at getting everyday people to feel more comfortable with math by using it in a way we all can relate to.

Q: Where do you get your ideas for stuff to calculations?

A: They get sent to me in a package from a factory in Bassett, NE. Well, there's that plus some combination of problems that come out of my own head and a bunch of problems that come out of the other heads around me. I've been blessed to be around a number of intelligent, talented, and imaginative heads.

Q: take suggestions for stuff to calculate?

A: Sometimes. It depends on what the suggestion is. There are certain things that don't make sense to calculate (e.g. the number of invisible pink elephants in the room), but as long as it's something physical and I think it's interesting, then I'll give it a shot. If you're the first one to suggest it to me and it ends up in a book, I'll definitely put you in the acknowledgments.

Q: Are any of these calculations right?

A: Surprisingly, yes. Some of them are actually pretty close to the correct answer, but I make no promises. Remember, the book only teaches you how to estimate things and think about numbers. It's not a book of factoids.

Q: I like the title and the picture with the slobber. How did you come up with that?

A: I can't take credit for either. Both were suggestions by some of the many hardworking people at Running Press that helped make this book possible.

Q: Did you have any alternate titles?

A: We had a few...Factiness, Engaging Gauging, Great Estimations (already taken), The Grapes of Math (already taken), Good Enough for Government Work, Horseshoes and Hand Granades, Go Figure, Guesstimations (already taken), It's Good Fermi...Was it Good For You, Enrico Suave, Easy Fermi...Easy For You, FermiRections, The Prime Equator, A View From the Equator, The Math to Righteousness, The Math Less Taken, A Math Made in Heaven, Dim Analysis, A Relaxing Bubble Math, He Who Math All, The Math of Kahn, Don't Equate for Dinner, Algae Bras (this one could have had a great cover), Times After Times, Go Forth And Multiply, Who's Having Sex And Other Math Problems, I'm a Number Jack and I'm OK, How to Drink and Derive, You're Deriving Me Crazy, Over Your Head Projections, Educate Your Guesses, Dilly Tally, Mathturbation, Everything You Wanted to Know About Math but Were Afraid to Calculate.

Errata, typos, and other things I screwed up...

When writing a book, you inevitably mess some things up. Here are some of the things that went wrong but still made it into the final version...

Missing thank you's...I'd like to thank editor Jennifer Leczkowski, who came on late in the process, but did a wonderful job putting together the final version.

Missing thank you's (Part II)...Special thanks to Joshua McDonnell for both the book design and the cover photograph. There are more people that liked the drool than I can estimate.

Missing thank you's (Part III)...Thank you to Mario Zucca for doing the many great illustrations in the book.