Big Numbers

Today I was idly wondering if there was any prefix for ten thousand, the way kilo- is the prefix for one thousand. Ah, Google, I love ya. In seconds I was on a page showing the accepted SI unit prefixes. I read that back in 1991 they decided they needed bigger numbers, so the prefixes could be applied in more areas. I had known exa-, but beyond that there is zetta- and yotta-.

So that got me to thinking, and we know nothing good can come of that. I like yotta- (1024 or 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000), but pretty soon your mobile phone is going to have a YB of RAM. (Actually, it will have a yobibyte (YiB) of RAM, but the principle applies.) Before we know it, we’ll be needing bigger prefixes. To forestall any confusion and economic disruption, I, as a public service, offer to lead the crusade to go on beyond yotta-, much as Dr. Seuss did for the alphabet in his ground-breaking work On Beyond Zebra.

You don’t have to thank me; it’s what I do.

To begin the discussion, I offer the following suggestions for the next prefixes:

  • lotta- 1027 – (abbreviation: L) this number is especially significant when you are ordering at lottaburger
  • holotta- 1030 – (abbreviation: HL)
  • messa- 1033 – (abbreviation: Me) as in “I want one messapotato.” (abbreviated 1 MeTater)
  • homessa- 1036 – (abbreviation: HMe)
  • yottayottayotta- 1072 – (abbreviation: YYY)

I invite the scientific community to participate as well, and include suggestions in the comments for this episode.

Is there any hope of defining a prefix that is as big as we will ever need? For instance, is there any point in defining number prefixes beyond the number of particles in the universe? (Last I heard, the estimate was somewhere around 1084.) For that number, I propose alla-, so you could say, the universe contains one allaparticle. (Later, if more particles turn up in some dusty backwater of the universe, we would have to decide whether to change the definition of alla- or just say, “The universe contains two allaparticles.”

Finally, the reason I was looking up any of this stuff: visitor 40009 will be the myennial office holder. It’s not officially sanctioned by the SI, but neither am I.

16 thoughts on “Big Numbers

  1. Hey ho, I have wrested MOHdom from the egg fryers and random voyeurs. And I did it completely legally/randomly (as opposed to my usual method of opening multiple browsers on multiple machines to tick over the last several visitors). I owe it all to clean living.

    My first act is to ask that pi day (3/14, aka Albert Einstein’s birthday) which lamentably slipped by with nary a notice (too plebeian for this community?) be added to the Muddled calendar.

    Further enlighted edicts forthcoming.

  2. There will be mention of pi day in the next Google episode, but I had not added it to the calendar. I have added it at the behest of the MOH.

  3. What I really want to add is Prime Number Day, but I couldn’t find one except a guy who realized that 1-3-05 was all primes. By that definition there will be years without a prime number day. Any suggestions?

  4. a shitload is not a number but a concept like infinity. And if it isn’t I think the MOH should pass an edict. And a kidney stone.

  5. As for shitload, that’s an english unit. There are several prefixes that apply only to the load: shit-, crap-, mother-, and boat-, off the top of my head. All of those prefixes are based on powers of three and twelve, with the occasional ninety-two thrown in. I cold never figure out the loads.

    Except for the fucking buttload, a term widely used in astrophysics but nowhere else in science.

  6. holottayottayottayotta would come in handy for when you have an octillion of something for each particle in the universe.

    Although that 10^84 figure for the particles in the universe is probably out of date.

  7. There already is a mathematical constant bigger than your alla- … if you took all the particles in the universe, and took all permutations of those particles over the age and size of the universe (there’s a minimum time quanta implicitly defined by this action and dtdx

  8. All right, Monsieur bugE, I’m going to give you the prefix friggna-, but you will have to give me the value. And, while we’re at it, any possible circumstance in which the prefix might be useful.

  9. Wannaholottaluv! Wannaholottaluv!

    Way down inside womannnnnnn
    You neeeeeeeed ……..
    Luvvvvvvvvvvvv!

    Buh Domppa domp buh, buh, buh!
    Buh Domppa domp buh, buh, buh!
    Buh Domppa domp buh, buh, buh!

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