The Sciences

Hella Good: Mixing Science and California Slang to Name a Really Big Number

DiscoblogBy Smriti RaoMar 3, 2010 7:18 PM

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If you came across the number 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, which is a one followed by 27 zeroes, won't you say that's a hella lot of numbers? UC Davis student Austin Sendek seems to think so. He has initiated a Facebook campaign to designate a scientifically accepted prefix for this number, 10^27. The prefix he chose is "hella" because it is "a hell of a lot" of numbers. It is also his way of mixing homegrown California slang with science. Sendek thinks the new prefix would be the best way to acknowledge the Golden State's hella hot contributions to science. If Sendek's proposal is accepted, then hella would come right after "yotta.” Physics World reports: Yotta (10^24), which was established in 2001, is currently the largest number established in the International System of Units (SI) — the world’s most widely used system of measurement — with zeta (10^21), exa (10^18) and peta (10^15) following close behind. Already, Sendek's Facebook fan page for the new designator has racked up a huge following, with more than 30,000 fans.

But what would you use hella for in science? DISCOVER's Cosmic Variance explains that a hellasecond is ten billion times the age of the universe, and the mass of the earth is about 6 hellagrams. Sendek says you could also use hella to describe the wattage of the Sun, the space between galaxies, or the number of atoms in a sample. Sendek has already written to the Consultative Committee for Units (CCU) which advises the International Committee for Weights and Measures--the body that makes the final decisions on the prefixes. However, CCU's head, Ian Mills, has said that he's skeptical that hella will win approval. Related Content: Cosmic Variance: Hella…yes!Image: Facebook/ The official petition to establish "Hella"

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