I've seen some post lately from people wanting to work with really large number, like 100 digits. I didn't want to interrupt their thread so I thought I see if I'm the only one that has a problem with these types of numbers.

I mean if I see 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 it has no real meaning to me. My response is, Yeah that's a lot or that's really far away. I have have no image in my mind of what it represents, no frame of reference. Now if you say 1000 light years away, for some reason it has more meaning to me than 6,000,000,000,000,000. What does a 1 followed by 99 zeros represent, how do you quantify it?

What does a 1 followed by 99 zeros represent, how do you quantify it?

1E99

I've been good at math all my life. I competed in math contests all throughout school including at the national level. To me, 6 quadrillion is exactly as meaningful as 1E99 in most contexts. They are both big numbers. One happens to be much, much bigger than the other. Neither one represents anything within arms reach that I can easily relate to. But I don't see a number and try to convert it into something meaningfully tangible.

But, to your point, there is a ceiling at which a number cannot reasonably represent something meaningfully tangible. What that ceiling is, I'm not sure. If you try to calculate the total "mass energy" (E=mc^2) of all atoms in the known universe, that might be a good candidate. But maybe not. Maybe you then say, take that gigantic amount of energy, and release it at a rate of 1 Joule per Million years, and calculate how many picoseconds it would take for the energy to be depleted. That would add something like 25 extra digits to that original number. Is this new number any more or less meaningful? Maybe, maybe not.

I'm curious to hear other opinions.

Edit: Forgot to add, posts dealing with very large numbers are likely related to cryptography or some math/number theory project, or maybe just playing around with big numbers for the sake of doing so.

Last edited by OptionBase1; Jan 15th, 2020 at 05:57 PM.

... What does a 1 followed by 99 zeros represent, how do you quantify it?
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Numbers that large are theoretical things and while they can be calculated and manipulated with various mathematical notation, don't really relate to anything physical, as far as we know.
The number you mentioned, 1 followed by 99 zeros is just 1/10th behind an existing named number, a googol which is 1 followed by 100 zeros.

A googol is presumed to be greater than the number of atoms in the observable universe.
For a really large named number you have the googolplex, which is 1 followed by google zeros.

"Anyone can do any amount of work, provided it isn't the work he is supposed to be doing at that moment" Robert Benchley, 1930

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You Millennial's sure have a lot of strange numbers.

Which side of the Millennial's are you on? I'm technically a baby-boomer myself, so am on the far side.
But the googol was actually "invented", or perhaps better to say defined, (in 1920 I believe) by a nine-year old boy.

I think that was about the same age I was when I first started trying to comprehend what a million of something might be relatable to. In my case, since we lived in a sandy area, I was wondering how large a million grains of sand might be. But, I didn't actually try to calculated it at the time.

Of course we deal with millions and billions and even trillions of things all the time these days. People typically stare at well over a million bytes of data just looking at the screen of the desktop of their computer. If you capture the desktop to an uncompressed bitmap, its pretty likely you have more data in that one image than is needed to store the largest novel ever written.

"Anyone can do any amount of work, provided it isn't the work he is supposed to be doing at that moment" Robert Benchley, 1930

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