Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Hella Good Idea, Or Hella Bad?

This story is certainly making the rounds in the math and science world today--a local university student wants to add a new metric prefix, "hella", which would be 10^27.

Austin Sendek, a UC Davis physics student, has started a petition to establish a new, scientifically accepted prefix, "hella," to be used in front of units of weight, distance or computer storage, much as "milli," "kilo," "mega" and "giga" are now used.

His petition already has hella signatures.

"Hella" is a Northern California term that is a slangy synonym for "really" or "a lot of."

Under Sendek's proposal, the International System of Units would adopt "hella" to follow "zetta," which indicates 1021, and "yotta," 1024.

"Hella" would indicate 1027, or 1 followed by 27 zeros.

Thanks to the poster in Mr. Tsuda's chemistry/physics class when I was in high school, I've memorized many metric prefixes:
  • exa (10^18, quintillion) peta tera giga mega kilo hecto deka
  • deci centi milli micro nano pico femto atto (10^-18, quintillionth)
That was as far as the poster went, and the quoted story above mentions two others--but not 10^27.

Note that the prefixes for "greater than one" are all Greek and those for "less than one" are all Latin. These prefixes are decided by an international standards-setting organization in France, so the chances of getting a slang term for "very" included as a new prefix seem somewhat remote. I can, however, imagine lesser scientific pursuits, such as reclassifying Pluto from a "planet" to a "dwarf planet".


KauaiMark said...

Dat's a hella big number!

Steve USMA '85 said...

I think they should save that one for 10^666