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Names of Large Numbers

Date: 9/14/96 at 17:59:44
From: Anonymous
Subject: Name of Large Numbers

My Gifted elementary school students are trying to find very large 
numbers. The highest that they have found so far is a "vigintillion" 
(1 + 63 zeroes). They couldn't find other numbers between a 
vigintillion and a centillion.  Can you help?

Date: 9/16/96 at 14:24:25
From: Doctor Tom
Subject: Re: Name of Large Numbers

You mean names for numbers, right?

I've never heard of any others myself.  Names for such large
numbers are basically useless, so it's not surprising that there
are only a limited number of them.  The vast majority of people
don't even know what a vigintillion is, so it's sort of useless
to use the word.  It's much easier to use scientific notation,
because then the size of the number is obvious: 1*10^63.

Besides, in the English speaking world, at least, there's already
disagreement about what the word "billion" means.  In the United
States, it means 10^9; in Great Britain, it means 10^12.  The
Brits add 6 zeroes per step up, and we add 3.  So a British
"trillion" is 10^18.

In a sense, the British system makes more sense -- "bi"llion,
"tri"llion, "quad"rillion, et cetera indicates 2, 3, and 4 from
the roots of the names.  If you think of them as meaning 2, 3, and
4 groups of 6 zeroes, everything makes good sense -- and it makes
no sense in the US system.

-Doctor Tom,  The Math Forum
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Associated Topics:
Elementary Large Numbers

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