New prefixes for extremely huge and small numbers announced

Prefixes that stand for 27th and 30th powers of 10 were required due to the frequent creation of data.
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At the General Conference on Weights and Measures (CGPM) in November, measurement experts and government representatives from all over the world voted to add new prefixes to the International System of Units (SI), announced the United Kingdom's National Physical Laboratory (NPL).

Scientists have been searching for new prefixes to represent their infinitesimally small and inconceivably vast results as the study of size continues to expand toward the extremes, both in terms of the greatest numbers and the tiniest numbers. 

So, as an extension of the metric system, the International System of Units (SI), a global decimal system of weights and measurements, was suggested by the United Kingdom's National Physical Laboratory.

The proposal, led by Prof Richard Brown, Head of Metrology at NPL, recommended the four new names. 

The new names for very large numbers are: 

  • ronna (symbol R) for 1027 or 1 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000  

  • quetta (symbol Q) for 1030 or 1 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 

And the names for small numbers are: 

  • ronto (symbol r) for 10−27 or 0.000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 001 

  • quecto (symbol q) for 10−30 or 0.000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 001 

Informal prefixes were already starting to be used often in data science, which raised the possibility of misunderstanding.

“From a metrology point of view, this sort of horrified me, because these are completely unofficial terms,” Richard Brown, a National Physical Laboratory meteorologist, told in a Nature-published release highlighting the change.

As a result of this decision, measurements can now be expressed globally using four new prefixes. The SI prefix range has now been expanded for the first time since 1991.

Why do we need SI prefixes? 

SI prefixes are a crucial component of the International System of Units because they enable us to use the SI as extensively as possible and ensure that measurements across technical fields are effectively and uniformly communicated without the need for non-SI units to be used or invented.

New SI prefixes are important because they allow us to describe extremely large or small quantities of measurement more accurately. There needs to be more than the current set of SI prefixes, which includes mega, giga, and tera, to describe the extremely large quantities that we are now able to measure in fields such as data storage and computing power. For example, the prefix exa indicates an amount of one quintillion (1 followed by 18 zeros), which is a much more precise measurement than the nearest SI prefix, peta (a quadrillion). Similarly, new prefixes such as yocto and zepto are necessary to accurately describe extremely small quantities in fields such as particle physics and chemistry. Overall, new SI prefixes are crucial for ensuring the precision and accuracy of scientific measurements.

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