Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Naming Large Numbers

A very small observation I'll throw out: Sometimes I want to name a large number that pops up on my calculator in scientific notation (like while lecturing in class, for example). A fast way to do that is to take the exponent and:
  • Divide by 3
  • Subtract 1
  • Say that in Latin (with "-illion").
Now, obviously this requires you to do a few elementary operations in your head and to also know Latin (or at least how to count therein). And: I'm doing this in the "short scale", of course.

Example #1: 1.01238 x 10^18.
Do 18/3-1 = 6-1 = 5. So this is about "one quintillion".

Example #2: 2.13129 x 10^48
Do 48/3-1 = 16-1 = 15. So this is about "two quindecillion".

Example #3: 6.38733 x 10^95
Do 95/3-1 = 31-1 = 30. Since we had a remainder of 2 at the division step, I'll say this is about "six hundred trigintillion".

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