Nov 29, 2022
If we typed out the four new numbers introduced at the United Kingdom’s National Physical Laboratory’s (NPL) 27th General Conference on Weights and Measures, we wouldn’t have room for anything else in this article.
That’s because the new prefixes NPL added to the metric system are meant to measure huge amounts of data. Prefixes can be attached to any base unit. For example, the “kilo-” in kilometer and the “milli-” in milligram are prefixes.
At the upper end of things, NPL’s math wizzes coined the term “ronna.” It means a digit with 27 trailing zeroes. They also came up with “quetta.” That prefix means the number has 30 zeroes following the first digit. There are new prefixes for tiny numbers, too. “Ronto” is a decimal followed by 27 zeroes before the first non-zero digit. “quecto” has 30 zeroes after the decimal point.
So, what can the new numbers measure? On a big scale, we can measure our planet. It weighs about 6 ronnagrams. And the sun weighs almost 2,000 quettagrams. In the world of the very small, a single electron’s mass is about one rontogram.
Humans have already created about 100 zettabytes (stick 21 zeroes after that hundred) of data in the digital age. The International Data Corporation estimates we’ll hit 175 zettabytes by 2025. That rate of growth, NPL argues, means we need new words to discuss it.
"It was high time. (We) need new words as things expand," NPL’s head of measurement told The Associated Press. "In just a few decades, the world has become a very different place."
Photosynthesis: Calculating Biomass and Carbon Storage for Trees
In this activity, students will measure the circumference of a tree, use a biomass chart to determine the mass of the tree, and then calculate the amount of carbon that the tree has stored.
Earth's Temperature Over Time
This short video uses graphs of global temperature over various time scales to show the changes in the Earth's rate of warming at different times in Earth's history.
Averages, VaRiaBiLiTy, and EXTREMES in Weather and Climate
This video shows how scientists use average temperature measurements and measurements of temperature variability to understand how the climate is shifting.