A rule of thumb is a homemade recipe for making a guess. It is an easy-to-remember guide that falls somewhere between a mathematical formula and a shot in the dark. Rules of thumb are a kind of tool. They help you appraise a problem or situation. They make it easier to consider the subtleties of the topic at hand; they give you a feel for a subject. A pilot in a tight spot doesn’t ask questions about aeronautical engineering; a pilot in a tight spot asks “now what?” There are times when you don’t need to know the best way to do something. These are times for ballpark figures, for knowing what you probably can get away with.
This site lists rules of thumb on a variety of topics. In 1982 the first collection, Rules of Thumb, was published as a book. Later editions grew the compilation until finally it was put up as a website where people from all over the world contributed their own experiences.
Frankly, I can’t say that all of these rules of thumb work. Some would be pretty hard to test. How would you check the rule that says one elephant will provide as much meat as one hundred antelopes? You can browse randomly or by topic and learn while enjoying the various quirks presented – all of them between varying degrees of science and art. And if you have your own rules of thumb, be sure to pass them on – they might just help someone in need, across the world !