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The Art of Insight in Science and Engineering: Mastering Complexity (MIT Press)

The Art of Insight in Science and Engineering: Mastering Complexity (MIT Press)

The Art of Insight in Science and Engineering: Mastering Complexity (MIT Press)
By Sanjoy Mahajan

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(9 customer reviews)

Book Description

Tools to make hard problems easier to solve.

In this book, Sanjoy Mahajan shows us that the way to master complexity is through insight rather than precision. Precision can overwhelm us with information, whereas insight connects seemingly disparate pieces of information into a simple picture. Unlike computers, humans depend on insight. Based on the author's fifteen years of teaching at MIT, Cambridge University, and Olin College, The Art of Insight in Science and Engineering shows us how to build insight and find understanding, giving readers tools to help them solve any problem in science and engineering.

To master complexity, we can organize it or discard it. The Art of Insight in Science and Engineering first teaches the tools for organizing complexity, then distinguishes the two paths for discarding complexity: with and without loss of information. Questions and problems throughout the text help readers master and apply these groups of tools. Armed with this three-part toolchest, and without complicated mathematics, readers can estimate the flight range of birds and planes and the strength of chemical bonds, understand the physics of pianos and xylophones, and explain why skies are blue and sunsets are red.

The Art of Insight in Science and Engineering will appear in print and online under a Creative Commons Noncommercial Share Alike license.

Book Details

  • Amazon Sales Rank: #150424 in Books
  • Published on: 2014-11-07
  • Original language: English
  • Number of items: 1
  • Dimensions: 9.00" h x .69" w x 7.00" l, .0 pounds
  • Binding: Paperback
  • 408 pages

Editorial Reviews


One of the best science books of all time, for people who want ahas in life. Whether you are a student, a researcher, or a curious citizen, try these tools on questions around you, and you will see how so much of the world starts fitting together.

(Tadashi Tokieda, Cambridge University)

Following his earlier gem, Street-Fighting Mathematics, Sanjoy Mahajan's new book takes a broad approach to estimation in science and engineering, on topics that range from black bodies to blue skies, from quantum mechanics to ocean waves. I have enjoyed using an early version while teaching Widely Applied Physics, and will make it mandatory reading for all my students now that it is out!

(L. Mahadevan, de Valpine Professor of Applied Mathematics, Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Professor of Physics, Harvard University)

This highly original book is a beautiful introduction to how we should think quantitatively over a range of scientific disciplines. The book combines both depth and simplicity in an unusual way that leaves us better prepared to understand the many wonderful things we see in our everyday lives if we only stop and think about them. I love this book and consider it a prime example of the kinds of books that should be most encouraged: an original and powerful vision that teaches us new ways of thinking about important problems.

(Rob Phillips, Fred and Nancy Morris Professor of Biophysics and Biology, Caltech)

This accessible and fun book teaches the most important skills that a student of science or engineering can master.

(David MacKay FRS, Regius Professor of Engineering, University of Cambridge; author of Sustainable Energy--Without the Hot Air)

This book is definitely worth adding to your reading list.


The Art of Insight in Science and Engineering is a wonderful and fun book that fills a gap in existing science curricula.

(Physics Today)

[A]n inspiring though racy (some might even call it dangerous) book.

(Mathematical Association of America)

...a glorious range of examples...a very ambitious and very impressive book.

(American Journal of Physics)

About the Author

Sanjoy Mahajan is Associate Professor of Applied Science and Engineering at Olin College of Engineering and Visiting Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT. He was a Marshall Scholar at Oxford University and a Fellow of Corpus Christi College in the University of Cambridge, where he was a member of the physics faculty. He is the author of Street-Fighting Mathematics: The Art of Educated Guessing and Opportunistic Problem Solving (MIT Press).

Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful.
5The approach is creative and it covers some advanced topics like Quantum Mechanics very intuitively however
By m. nabeel Tarabishy
I found this book to be a pleasant general review of physics. The approach is creative and it covers some advanced topics like Quantum Mechanics very intuitively however, to reap the full benefit, the reader's physics and math background should be in reasonable shape and should be willing to invest some time and effort in solving the problems.

0 of 0 people found the following review helpful.
5This book is a gem! It is written for ...
By Dolly
This book is a gem!It is written for everyone,and it expands my curiosity about classical physics in a way that is unimaginable.

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful.
5The tools and language to the Art of Insight in Science and Engineering
By needle
This is a long over due book - it is fantastic. The titles of many books are just hype, not this one. It promises insights and it delivers – on every page. The problems are well thought out and should definitely be attempted. The different methods to handle complexity are used to attack the same problem. That’s serves to verify the solutions reached. This book is worth it - buy it and invest the time studying it - you will be rewarded.

See all 9 customer reviews...
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