Post a news story, entertain me!

20,000,000,000,000,000, or 20,000 trillion

This doesn't help anybody. Back when I had to frequently explain what a femtosecond was to people, I found that it was much more useful to explain a quadrillion as a million billion. A billion tends to be the highest order of magnitude that regular people can understand. Anything higher than that may as well be infinity. So, by describing something as one million of the largest order of magnitude that they can think of at least gets them to think of it as a quantifiable thing and not just infinity. In my specific case, it was also convenient that most peoples idea of the smallest unit of time is the nanosecond. So, I could just tell them that there was a million femtoseconds in a nanosecond.

Thank you for coming to my TED Talk.

So, 20 million billion.

EO Wilson has written a number of excellent books on ants for regular people as well as scientists, and also a very enjoyable novel called "Anthill".

I am skeptical that people can generally genuinely quantify 1 billion. It is so much larger than people generally think, especially now that billionaires are somewhat common.

NSMike wrote:

I am skeptical that people can generally genuinely quantify 1 billion.

It's easy to quantify, it's just a million times what people can easily quantify, and EVERYONE knows what a million is, right?

Jonman wrote:
NSMike wrote:

I am skeptical that people can generally genuinely quantify 1 billion.

It's easy to quantify, it's just a million times what people can easily quantify, and EVERYONE knows what a million is, right?

The number of people that think a billion is 10x a million beg to differ.

EverythingsTentative wrote:
Jonman wrote:
NSMike wrote:

I am skeptical that people can generally genuinely quantify 1 billion.

It's easy to quantify, it's just a million times what people can easily quantify, and EVERYONE knows what a million is, right?

The number of people that think a billion is 10x a million beg to differ.

Same for them that thinks it's 1000 x a million.

Jonman wrote:
EverythingsTentative wrote:
Jonman wrote:
NSMike wrote:

I am skeptical that people can generally genuinely quantify 1 billion.

It's easy to quantify, it's just a million times what people can easily quantify, and EVERYONE knows what a million is, right?

The number of people that think a billion is 10x a million beg to differ.

Same for them that thinks it's 1000 x a million. :)

It is 1000 x a million, though... kind of.

In the US, a billion has always been 1000 x a million. In the UK, a billion was traditionally a million million. So it depends who you ask, but I think, globally, the 1000x figure is more common these days.

NSMike wrote:

I am skeptical that people can generally genuinely quantify 1 billion. It is so much larger than people generally think, especially now that billionaires are somewhat common.

It's not that they have a natural feel for how big a billion is, it's that they at least still conceive of it as a number and not just infinity. Billion is just the largest order of magnitude that people hear about somewhat regularly. Trillion and quadrillion may as well be a zillion. People just don't hear them enough to think of them as a number.

EverythingsTentative wrote:

The number of people that think a billion is 10x a million beg to differ.

Those people tend not to ask additional questions about your research beyond "So, your a science guy, huh?".

The Tripitaka Koreana

From Dubious Quality

Well, this is really something.

Here's a description:
The Tripitaka Koreana - carved on 81258 woodblocks in the 13th century - is the most successful large data transfer over time yet achieved by humankind. 52 million characters of information, transmitted over nearly 8 centuries with zero data loss - an unequalled achievement.

I don't know how I'd never heard of this before.

52 million characters. Two gigabytes of data. 6,568 volumes. Carved into wood blocks. Stacked on top of each other, they'd reach a mile and a half high.

It's the "most comprehensive and oldest version of the Buddhist canon." And it was made in the 13th century.

Everything about this is absolutely stunning, and you can read about it here: Tripitaka Koreana.