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Big and small numbers

24 November, 2022

The Earth weighs around one ronnagram, and an electron’s mass is about one quectogram, according to Nature (https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-022-03747-9): "By the 2030s, the world will generate around a yottabyte of data per year - that’s 1024 bytes, or the amount that would fit on DVDs stacked all the way to Mars."

As always, it is the language that suffers the biggest impact of technology, and here it is happening again. The General Conference on Weights and Measures, which met outside Paris on 18 November, voted to introduce four new prefixes to the International System of Units (SI) with immediate effect: for the plus sizes, it's ronna- for 10[27] and quetta- for 10[30], and for very severe dieters it's ronto- for 10[-27] and quecto for 10[−30]. Somehow I missed zetta (10[21]), zepto (10[−21]), yotta (10[24]) and yocto (10[24]), which were added in 1991. [*see note below]

I've lost a zeptogram just writing this...


Chris Zielinski


Blogs: http://ziggytheblue.wordpress.com and http://ziggytheblue.tumblr.com

Research publications: http://www.researchgate.net

HIFA profile: Chris Zielinski: As a Visiting Fellow and Lecturer at the Centre for Global Health, University of Winchester, Chris leads the Partnerships in Health Information (Phi) programme, which supports knowledge development and brokers healthcare information exchanges of all kinds. He is the elected Vice President (and President-in-Waiting) of the World Association of Medical Editors. Chris has held senior positions in publishing and knowledge management with WHO in Brazzaville, Geneva, Cairo and New Delhi, with FAO in Rome, ILO in Geneva, and UNIDO in Vienna. He served on WHO's Ethical Review Committee, and was an originator of the African Health Observatory. He also spent three years in London as Chief Executive of the Authors Licensing and Collecting Society. Chris has been a director of the UK Copyright Licensing Agency, Educational Recording Agency, and International Association of Audiovisual Writers and Directors. He has served on the boards of several NGOs and ethics groupings (information and computer ethics and bioethics). chris AT chriszielinski.com. His publications are at https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Chris-Zielinski and https://winchester.academia.edu/ChrisZielinski/ and his blogs are http://ziggytheblue.wordrpress.com and https://www.tumblr.com/blog/ziggytheblue

[*Note from NPW, moderator: The original message included superscript which is not caaried by HIFA. I have represented superscript by square brackets. For example, 10[27] is 10 to the power of 27.]