Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Very large numbers

This article has been contributed by the numerologist Dr A.V. O'Gadro.  Tony is based in Birr, in Ireland, and is used to very large numbers.

"Many large numbers can be expressed using exponential notation, which in simple terms means lots of zeroes.  I have a very big number and is expressed as 6 x 10 to the power 23, i.e. 6 with 23 zeroes tagged on.  Now these are what you would be calling old units, and today's chemists would say that there should be 26 zeroes after the 6.  But, that's inflation for you - or as our finance minister said: what's a hundred billion between friends?  Talking of exponential scales, this reminds me of the old joke: 

When Noah sighted land, he drew up the ark to the land and put out his plancks constant so that the animals could go off 2 x 2 and go forth and multiply, for it is written in the book ...

After some time, Mrs Noah found a couple of coils of rope in the ark and she called Noah to ask what the ropes were.  He said, they're not ropes, they're snakes.  They're called adders, and you'll have to find them some log tables so that they can go forth and multiply...

(Editors comment: thank you Tony.  I think we get the point - rather the decimal point!)

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