Glom

2004-Feb-24, 07:08 PM

One English billion = 1,000,000,000,000 = 10^12

One American billion = 1,000,000,000 = 10^9

Which is better?

314,159,265,358,979,323,846 would be three hundred and fourteen quintillion, one hundred and fifty nine quadrillion, two hundred and sixty five trillion, three hundred and fifty eight billion, nine hundred and seventy nine million, three hundred and twenty three thousand, eight hundred and fourty six in American counting.

But in English counting, it's three hundred and fourteen million, one hundred and fifty nine thousand, two hundred and sixty five billion, three hundred and fifty eight thousand, nine hundred and seventy nine million, three hundred and twenty three thousand, eight hundred and six.

I can see advantages to both sides. The American system groups the numbers more simply so that it is more obvious what is of what magnitude. With a long winded number like that, the English system can get confusing. The American system constructs the numbers from a series of groups of hundreds, tens and units and defines a rank by the additional value such a million or billion. It's an assemblage of bitsize and easily digestible values. The English system reuses the additional value terms to the point when you can loose track of what they are. Is that million describing how many billions of trillions there are or how many thousands of quintillions?

On the other hand, the American system requires that the counting of that number to go all the way to the quintillions, which is the highest number I've ever heard used (what's next, sextillion? Doesn't sound right.), while the English system doesn't require entering even the trillions. You can go up to 10^192 while not having to challenge the supremacy of the quintillions, while the American system would limit the quintillions to 10^21. That's a big difference. Million and billion are familiar terms. Quadrillion and quintillion are more exotic. The English system keeps counting in the familiar terms for longer.

One American billion = 1,000,000,000 = 10^9

Which is better?

314,159,265,358,979,323,846 would be three hundred and fourteen quintillion, one hundred and fifty nine quadrillion, two hundred and sixty five trillion, three hundred and fifty eight billion, nine hundred and seventy nine million, three hundred and twenty three thousand, eight hundred and fourty six in American counting.

But in English counting, it's three hundred and fourteen million, one hundred and fifty nine thousand, two hundred and sixty five billion, three hundred and fifty eight thousand, nine hundred and seventy nine million, three hundred and twenty three thousand, eight hundred and six.

I can see advantages to both sides. The American system groups the numbers more simply so that it is more obvious what is of what magnitude. With a long winded number like that, the English system can get confusing. The American system constructs the numbers from a series of groups of hundreds, tens and units and defines a rank by the additional value such a million or billion. It's an assemblage of bitsize and easily digestible values. The English system reuses the additional value terms to the point when you can loose track of what they are. Is that million describing how many billions of trillions there are or how many thousands of quintillions?

On the other hand, the American system requires that the counting of that number to go all the way to the quintillions, which is the highest number I've ever heard used (what's next, sextillion? Doesn't sound right.), while the English system doesn't require entering even the trillions. You can go up to 10^192 while not having to challenge the supremacy of the quintillions, while the American system would limit the quintillions to 10^21. That's a big difference. Million and billion are familiar terms. Quadrillion and quintillion are more exotic. The English system keeps counting in the familiar terms for longer.