Tech

We will have to define larger and smaller scales

Several years ago, automobile and technology companies used the term “gigafactory” (literally “gigafactory”) to identify their production plants, to give an idea of ​​whether there were large factories or where huge quantities of products were being produced. Tesla, the electric car company owned by Elon Musk, was among the first to use “Giga Factory‘, becoming an inspiration to other companies and the media, who sometimes use the word to describe factories that are nothing but huge.

As it happened recently note L ‘economic, the prefix “giga” is used to mean “billion,” but none of the companies that use it for their factories produce that many products per year. In 2021, Tesla produced 930 thousand electric cars, which is a new record for Musk, but the amount is still small considering that other manufacturers have come to build more than 8 million cars in the same period (with conventional engines, hybrid or electric). In the case of Tesla, “giga” can be understood as a reference to the billions of watt-hours produced with its batteries.

The word “giga” comes from the Greek and means “giant,” a term that can be applied to large production plants such as those of Tesla, although there are much larger factories around the world in which companies use less clear definitions.

In addition to the widespread use of the prefix “giga”, not only in the industrial field, it is true that scientific and technological research in recent decades has achieved significant new results, often investigating infinitely small and infinitely small. Scientific discoveries and technological progress gradually led to new needs in determining orders of magnitude much higher than those usually used, which we began to recognize in school.

The most important reference in defining prefixes for orders of magnitude and scales of measure is International System of Units (SI). It is adopted practically all over the world, with the exception of some countries including the United States, which continue to use other systems, while maintaining a certain symbiosis with SI especially in the scientific field.

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The most common prefixes for us in SI are, in ascending order:

• Micro (million)
• thousand thousand)
• cents (cents)
• Decimal (X)
• Deca (ten)
Hectograms (one hundred)
• Kilo (in thousands)
• Mega (million)

But there are many other applications that are used quite often, thanks to the rapid developments in the IT sector.

Forty years ago, a good computer had 256 kilobytes of memory, but things changed dramatically when the first models with megabytes of memory, a million bytes, were introduced. The word “mega” always comes from Greek and is used to refer to something “big”, so the prefix was already known before it was associated with a particular order of magnitude, just think of different words in our vocabulary like megalomania or mega screen.

To be honest, the advent of computer and byte science complicated things a bit, because binary multiples are used for computers and there was a risk of confusion between the use of standard SI prefixes and those used to refer to binary and non-decimal multiples. As a result, 1 megabyte can mean a million bytes, 1,048,576 bytes, or even 1,024,000 bytes, depending on the memory systems referenced or the size of the files. To solve the mystery of the end of the nineties yes He decided That 1,048,576 bytes were referred to as mebibytes, but the new definition was not very successful.

Besides the misunderstanding, computer systems continued to evolve rapidly making “mega” unsuitable: thus, “giga” was resorted to, which, as we have seen, denotes a billion. For some time, the Giga has been the go-to reference for purchasing computers, DVDs, hard drives, external USB sticks, or cameras.

Even today, the gigabyte is the reference for a large part of consumer electronics, but it is increasingly being replaced by the terabyte, which, as the word suggests, uses the prefix “tera”, derived from the Greek for “monster”. You know the prefix trillion, and it has become a household term as it became “a dance” a few years ago.

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Advances in computer science and in many sectors of research, such as particle physics, have made it necessary to use other prefixes, already stipulated by the International Committee for Weights and Measures (CIPM), which is responsible for coordinating efforts to maintain common standards relating to units of measurement and methods for their indication.

Having passed the word “terra”, one remains in the company of the Greek words with “beta” and “exa”, which respectively denote the number five and the number six. The first is used to refer to a million billion and is therefore 10005while the second refers to a billion or 10006. The number of insects on Earth is estimated to be about a billion billion, for example, while the known bacteria that live in our bodies are about a million billion.

In choosing prefixes, the CIPM has been forced to make some coercive choices when it comes to defining the next two orders of magnitude. Greek was abandoned for Latin and the word “septa” was taken into account for 10007 and “eight” for 10008. Some have pointed out that abbreviating “septa” with “s” would cause confusion with the second, as well as the “o” for “opt” with “0”. So the prefixes were a little off and spawned “zetta” to denote a thousand billion and “yota” to denote a million billion billion. It is estimated that in the visible part of the sky from Earth there are 70 stars and that in our brain there are a set of connections between synapses.

Coming below unity, even a search of infinitesimal has led to the definition of prefixes, naturally mirroring those we’ve seen so far. After “micro” for a million there is “nano” which stands for billion and then “pico” for one thousandth of a billion. Then follow ‘femto’, ‘verb’, ‘zepto’ and finally ‘yocto’.

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“Yocto” is often used to specify the mass of a subatomic particle, for example the mass of a proton and 1.6726 yg that is yoctograms; The mass of an insulin molecule is 10 zeptograms. The femometer is used for atomic and subatomic measurements and is sometimes called “Fermi” in honor of the Italian physicist Enrico Fermi. Femtometer is the radius of a proton and neutron.

The prefixes that the international system recognizes currently stop at “yocto” and “yotta”, which can also be imagined as a 1 followed by 24 zeros (1024), but the addition of new words in the future is also not ruled out because some of them are already informally used as words for defining very large integers.

The most well-known word in this sense is probably “googol” which stands for 1 followed by one hundred zeros (10100). was the term invent At the end of the 1930s, the American mathematician Edward Kasner was looking for a good way to show the differences between the infinite and the infinite. Actually measuring volumes is a disproportionately large matter: it is estimated that even including all the particles of the known universe, one would not reach a billionth of a billionth of a googol. On the other hand, the founders of Google – Larry Page and Sergey Brin – were inspired by googol to choose the name of their search engine.

Going back to the prefixes, there are still those who have already suggested which one is used for 1027. It’s a group of college students in California Suggestion To employ the somewhat popular Northern California saying “hela” derived from “hell,” is used to define something really great in a positive or negative sense. The system has already been recognized by some organizations and companies, and is used by Google itself, but it still does not meet the standards.

Maggie Benson

"Bacon trailblazer. Certified coffee maven. Zombie lover. Tv specialist. Freelance communicator."

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