Damien on… Little And Large – Numbers
These days, America having screwed up the billion and trillion (see https://damienatloppers.wordpress.com/2011/11/08/damien-on-ive-told-you-a-million-times-dont-exaggerate/ ) we can only safely use thousand and million, when we need big numbers.
But there are a whole bunch MORE out there – and TINY numbers as well. The trouble is, these SI units are METRIC and America cannot get its collective head around THAT. Hell, even us Brits have taken decades to do it – and apart from the very young, we STILL drink pints and measure our height in feet and inches.
The problem is that while decimal measures are great for scientists, our old Imperial measures RELATED to everyday life.
Like, the acre comes to us from the Middle Ages – and was the amount of land a bloke with an ox could plough in a day.
And the foot comes from WAY back and is simply the length of a (shod) human foot.
While the hundredweight (112 pounds) dates back to Medieval times and was the most a man could comfortably carry on his back (like a sack of coal). Although America has a short version of THAT, TOO – just 100 pounds.
As for pints and gallons, they get SERIOUSLY complicated – and yet again, America’s are SMALLER.
However, these days the old measures are fast disappearing in favour of the more logical, practical and CO-RELATING decimal measures (a litre of water weighs a kilogramme and occupies a thousand cubic centmetres – more or less).
But while most are familiar with mega- this and micro- that – few know the LOT. So here – for those who would like to BROADEN their descriptions of large and small quantities – they are…
Deca- = times ten (10 to the power 1 – not used much)
Hecto- = times one hundred (10 to the power 2 – likewise)
Kilo- = times one thousand (10 to the power 3)
Mega- = times one million (10 to the power 6)
Giga- = times one thousand million (10 to the power 9)
Tera- = times one million million (10 to the power 12)
And now we get SERIOUSLY big…
Peta- = times one thousand million million (10 to the power 15)
Don’t worry too much about these “powers” – the number is merely the number of ZEROS. Onward…
Exa- = times one million million million (10 to the 18)
Zetta- = times one thousand million million million (10 to the 21)
Yotta- = times one million million million million (10 to the 24)
And that is as big as you can GET. Meanwhile, going DOWN, we have…
Deci- = one tenth (ten to the power MINUS one)
Centi- = one hundredth (ten to the power minus 2)
Milli- = one thousandth (10 to the power minus 3)
Micro- = one millionth (10 to the power minus 6)
Again, the “powers” are just zeros, with “minus” indicating the number is a FRACTION. Thus “micro-” is one OVER one million.
Nano- = one thousand-millionth (10 to the minus 9)
Pico- = one million-millionth (10 to the minus 12)
And here is where we get seriously SMALL…
Femto- = one thousand-million-millionth (10 to the minus 15)
Atto- = one million-million-millionth (10 to the minus 18)
Zepto- = one thousand-million-million-millionth (10 to the minus 21)
And finally, my personal favourite…
Yocto- = one million-million-million-millionth (10 to the minus 24)
The possibilities are endless…
“Hang on a yoctosecond” or “Oi! Yoctobrain!”
If you admire a celebrity, don’t call them a megastar – call them a yottastar. Alternatively, if you’re talking about Frankie Cocozza – you have YOCTOSTAR.
So there you are: a whole RANGE of prefixes that can be tacked onto words to give PRECISE measurements, instead of silly words like gazillions or miniseries (which should have a hyphen, anyway).
And if you can’t remember ALL the prefixes, just fix these LAST two into your vocabulary: yotta – bloody BIG, yocto – incredibly TINY.
Astound your friends and confuse your enemies!