Friday, September 19, 2008

The Largest Number in the World

The financial turmoil this week has shed some figures, deemed exceptionally large to common layman, the hundreds of billions of US dollars of the bailouts.

And my post yesterday has mentioned the trillions of US dollars of US debt.

A trillion is 1,000,000,000,000.

So are there any more numbers bigger than trillion?

The answer is a definite Yes.

If we were to keep pursuing for an answer of the highest possible number, there is none. No matter how large a number you have, there is always a large one as we can always add 1 to that number to get a larger number.

The largest number that has a specific name is a "googleplex", which is a 1 followed by a googol zeros (10^(10^100)), where a "googol" is 10^100 (a 1 followed by 100 zeros).

However, like what I have discussed, we could always add to 1 to this "googleplex" to get an ever larger number and so on and thus to conclude, there is no such thing as the highest number in the world though thereotically this number is call a "googleplex".

A "googleplex" seems to be made up of the world ‘google’ and ‘plex’, I am uncertain as to whether this is the origin of the name of the most popular search engine in the world.

We must not treat infinity as the largest number. I would like to think of "googleplex" as a fixed largest number even known and an infinity as a never-ending continuum of higher and higher numbers.

Other names to be given to immensely vast numbers are:
Duodecillion: 10^39 Quattuordecillion: 10^84 Centillion: 10^303 The current estimate for the number of electrons in the known universe is 10^88 (a.k.a. ten-thousand quattuordecillion)! and this number 10^88 is believed to be the largest number that measures something "tangible” according to an internet website. Writing incredibly huge numbers is easy, it is another thing to get a feel of the actual magnitude of the numbers: A trillion dollar bills stacked up would be twice as high as Mount Everest, Earth's highest point! A trillion dollar bills laid end-to-end at the equator would circle the planet nearly 3,000 times), For a number like: 10^(10^30). If a person were to write out this number (one million trillion trillion, zeroes) without using scientific notation, and this person writes at a rate of one digit per second, it would take that person about 3 x 10^22 (that's thirty billion trillion years) just to write the number. The piece of paper used would not be able to fit in our entire known universe ! Similarly for the smallest number, some say negative infinity is the smallest number in ever known. I disagree for alike positive infinity, negative infinity describes a continuum to me, not a fixed number. Some says take the largest number and put a negative sign in front of it and we would get the smallest number, not a better answer, I suppose as it still represents a continuum and is still not positive.

Others say 1/ (infinity) is the smallest number but I disagree. I believe 1/(infinity) is still larger than 0 as it is a positive number.

Similar to the concept of the ‘largest number’, there is also no smallest number, but I do not know what the name of the smallest number is called.

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