Whether you are buying a tiny amount of bitcoin and have to face a huge decimal; or whether you are doing stats at Shoprite and have to collate all the sales figures from Zambia in Kwachas – at some point you are going to have to deal with large numbers. Don’t be left stranded, check out this easy cheat sheet below.
Grouping by zeros
|Name||Number of zeros
||Sets of 3 zeros||Written|
From 1 to a million, our naming convention adds a single trailing zero each time:
But from 1 million upwards, we add a set of 3 trailing zeros each time:
- Million has 2 sets (of 3 zeros)
- Billion has 3 sets (of 3 zeros)
- Trillion has 4 sets (of 3 zeros)
- Quadrillion 5 sets (of 3 zeros)
- Quantillion 6 sets (of 3 zeros)
To the power of ten
Millions, Billions and Trillions are sill fine, but even a Quadrillion becomes cumbersome with it’s 15 zero’s. In this case a different way of presenting the total number of zero’s would be greatly appreciated. Enter The Powers of Ten.
In Maths & Science, it is common to quickly express the amount of zeros required in large numbers by this convention. A million would be written as 106, or ten to the power of six, indicating that there are six zeros. This saves a lot of time. So now, for a quantillion, in stead of 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 – just write 1018.
Powers of Ten are written as:
Million: =106 Billion: =109 Trillion: =1012 Quadrillion: =1015
The Excel formula would simply be:
Million: =1*10^6 Billion: =1*10^9 Trillion: =1*10^12 Quadrillion: =1*10^15
And a calculator with limited screen size might display:
Million: 1E+6 Billion: 1E+9 Trillion: 1E+12 Quadrillion: 1E+15
What is a googol?
We all know google. Their name is inspired by a large number, the googol. A googol has 100 zero’s, so 10100. Even though you can clearly measure it, many people use the word googol for describe any really large number. The word googol originates from American Mathematician Edward Kasner, when he asked his 9 year old nephew the name a very large number. The little guy, Milton Sirotta, said ‘googol’.
And a googolplex?
Different definitions of a billion
The short scale and the long scale.
There are two definitions of a billion. I know it as a thousand-million (1,000,000,000) or 109. This is the number we all use in science and finance and it is referred to as the short scale. The short scale is the most widely used definition of a billion, used in South Africa, the USA and most of the rest of the world.
Enter the French. They refer to a billion as a million-million (1000,000,000,000) or 1012, ie what we would know as a trillion. This is known as the long scale up until recently was used in the UK as well.
PS, the long scale version of a million is called a milliard, admittedly something we also often heard in the South African news, in Afrikaans ‘n Miljard, so defining a billion might become blurry, especially with the older population.
More on wiki.