Published on May 24, 2012

We discuss millions, billions, trillions and centillions is this film about the long and short scales. We also touch on quadrillions, sextillions, milliards, billiards and the Greek myriad.

Featuring Dr James Grime and Dr Tony Padilla. More about them at…

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In English, the original naming of numbers ends at 1000. So each place has a name up to 1000, (units, tens, hundreds, thousands). Then it ends. So the full ‘life’ of numbers ends at 1000. Since 1000 is the end of numbering, it is in the greek an eon. The furthest ‘life’ of the numbers.

From there we count how many thousands. 1, 2, up to 999 thousand.
So we say one hundred thousand meaning that there are (100) thousands
After that it just sounds funny to say a thousand thousand, So a name was invented for (1000) thousands,
“milli” means 1000. For example there are 1000 millimeters in a meter.
Milli (means 1000) eon (means 1000)
So, milli eon means (1000) thousands = million
Now, continuing to count thousands, we get to (1000 x 1000) thousands, so how many thousands are there? Since our count of how many thousands we have says thousand twice (1000 x 1000) we say bi meaning twice. Therefore lets name it bi-milli (twice thousand) ion (thousand) which is condensed to billion.
So, billion means (thousand thousand) thousands. Because we are naming it based on how many thousands we have (and NOT the TOTAL power of 1000 the number is), and in this case we have (thousand thousand) thousands, thus ‘thousand said twice’ worth of thousands.

English numbers ended at 1000, and after that we are counting how many thousands we have. From there the logic continues:
(thousand thousand thousand) thousands = (tri milli) eon = trillion
(thousand thousand thousand thousand) thousands = (quadra milli) eon = quadrillion.

The numbers are named based on how many thousands we have, not based on what power 1000 is brought to to get the final number. So, the total power of 1000’s will be 1000 to the prefix power (the count of how many thousands) + 1 (for the thousand, which is that which is being counted by the name itself).
So, a centillion is (thousand thousand …..repeated 100 times) thousands. = 1000 ^ (100+1).


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