You know kilo, mega and gig. What about ronde and quack?
Just redefining the kilogram and other basic measures, the keepers of the metric system chose a new target: new prefixes for insanely large and small numbers.
A proposal submitted to the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM) in Paris recommends new names — Ronna and Cueca — as prefixes 10 27 and 10 30, respectively. Their microscopic colleagues will join them, ronto - 10 -27 , and cuectora - 10 -30 . If approved, new prefixes can be officially introduced in 2022. These will be the first prefixes added since 1991.
The planned update corresponds to a huge increase in the global amount of information, which, according to forecasts, will exceed 1 yotabyte (10 24 ) by the beginning of the 2030s - the boundaries of the current scale. Without new prefixes, scientists will not be able to officially talk about what will happen next. At the other end of the scale, quantum physicists measured atomic forces of just 42 yoktonyuton. And they end the metrological scale.“If the need is not met, there is a risk of unofficial prefixes that can cause confusion,” says Richard Brown, head of the Metrology department at the National Physical Laboratory near London, who suggested new names. He says that unofficial terms outside the yotta, including brontobyte and geobyte, are already becoming popular. Although mathematicians sometimes use the prefix googol ( googol ) (10 100 ), a name coined a century ago, a girl of 9 years, and it is unofficial.
Brown prefers to follow the traditions. New prefixes should be etymologically related to nine and ten in order to represent the ninth and tenth degrees of the number 10 3. He also wanted to continue the reverse alphabetic trend set by Zetta and Yotta , but he needed to avoid letters such as X, W and V, which can be confused with other terms. And so, relying on Latin and Greek words meaning 9 (novem , ennea ) and 10 ( decem , deka ), having a certain poetry to make the terms easy to pronounce, he invented rhone , quekka , ronto and cuekto . “It's a good start to the conversation,” says Brown, who published his proposal last month in Measurement magazine .
“It’s too early to say whether the prefixes will be accepted,” says Estefania de Mirandés, executive secretary of the measures committee and physicist at BIPM. “It would be premature to mention the possible outcome of the discussion,” she wrote in an e-mail.
Other proposals to expand the scale of measurement failed. In 2010, a physics student from California proposed the prefix hella (10 27 ), and thousands of people signed an online petition in support. (Contrary to reports, the idea did not reach the BIPM measures committee.) In 2008, an article in the New York Times about supercomputers referred to xraflop, and in the 2015 article on space engineering, the symbols X, W and V were used to describe the giant energy levels outside Yotta scales that could be seen if the aliens turned a black hole into a particle accelerator. A joker changed the Wikipedia article in 2008 and introduced a new technical term for a computer that can do 10 48operations per second: gonnaflop. After 7 minutes, he was removed.
Ronne , Quakek and their partners may be more lucky. Emilio Prieto, who represents the Spanish Metrology Center in Madrid on the measures committee, says he would vote for them because they are simple and memorable. “Once people start using the wrong prefix names, it’s impossible to return and change them,” he says.
If these four names are approved, Brown says, there will be only one good letter that could be used for 10 33 and 10 −33 in the future: B (and b). We already have the names of Brown at the ready: bundekka ( bundecca ) and bundekto ( bundecto) based on undecim - 11 in Latin.