Quixotic Californian crusade to officially recognize hellabyte and hellagram is going hella nowhere

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In the year 2010, Austin Sendek, who was at the time a physics student at UC Davis, initiated a petition in the hopes of having the prefix “hella-” recognised as an official measurement under the International System of Units (SI), denoting the value 1027.

According to him, “Northern California is home to numerous renowned research institutions,” such as the University of California, Davis; the University of California, Berkeley; Stanford University; and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

“On the other hand, science isn’t the only thing that distinguishes Northern California from the rest of the globe. The area is also the only place in the globe that is currently practising extensive usage of the English slang word “hella,” which normally indicates “extremely” but can also refer to a huge quantity (for example, “there are hella stars out tonight”).

The International System of Units (SI) provides prefixes for quantities all the way up to 1024. Those who possess such a large number of bytes are said to have a yottabyte. A zettabyte is equal to 1021 bytes, therefore if you have 1021 bytes, you have a zettabyte. In addition to it, there is the gigabyte (109), the terabyte (1012), the petabyte (1015), and the exabyte (1018).

Support for “hella-” would make it possible to talk about hellabytes of data, according to his argument. He also points out that this would simplify the amount of atoms in 12 kilogrammes of carbon-12, which would go from 600 yottaatoms to 0.6 hellaatoms as a result. In a similar vein, the sun, which has a mass of 2.2 hellatons, would only emit 0.3 hellawatts of energy rather than the 300 yottawatts that it actually does.

Brontobytes and xanobytes are two of the many names that have been proposed in the past ten years for the unit of measurement that corresponds to 1027 bytes. In addition, a geobyte is equal to 1030 bytes, and a googol is equal to 10100 of something. Although these phrases are occasionally used, they are not generally accepted as standards of measurement.

There are additionally binary-multiple prefixes that are used by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). These prefixes are based on powers of two, such as one kibibit, which equals 210 bits (1024 bits), and should not be confused with one kilobit, which equals 103 bits (1000 bits). However, terminology based on the decimal system are more commonly used than binary ones.

Friends in important positions
By modifying their search engine in May of 2010, Google took a stand in favour of the “hella-” movement. If you conduct a search using the Google Search box with terms such as “bytes to hellabytes,” the page that displays the results will include a unit conversion widget.

Sendek, who is now a visiting scholar at Stanford and the CEO of a software business called Aionics, stated in a phone interview with The Register that he had a friend who was working as an intern at Google at the time who was able to get the conversion widget deployed.

After another year, Wolfram Alpha added the capability to perform “hella-” calculations. Competing prefixes, such as bronto-, have not been endorsed in this manner as of yet.

According to Sendek, the term “hellabyte” was initially conceived as a joke between him and a few college mates. However, the term evolved into a more serious worry as he investigated the process by which measurements are determined and as his idea gained support.

He believed that measuring hella- amounts could be valuable for astronomical measurements, despite the fact that there was not a great deal of demand for it at the time. He estimated that the diameter of the cosmos was somewhere about a hellameter and a half. The mass of the sun is approximately represented by a hellagram.

Unfortunately, it’s quite unlikely that the hella- prefix will ever be accepted into the official scientific language. It’s more likely to stay in the vernacular.

Both “hella-” and “bronto-” have problems, according to Richard JC Brown, who is a fellow in chemical metrology at the National Physical Laboratory in the United Kingdom (UK). Brown’s proposals for the terms “ronna-” and “quetta-,” which were published in the journal Measurement in 2019, appear to be the front-runners for the development of new language for measurements.

Brown stated in an email to The Register that the ideas that are now being evaluated for increasing higher the range of International System of Units (SI) prefixes are ‘ronna,’ symbol: R, for 1027; and ‘quetta,’ symbol: Q, for 1030.

“Hella-” and “bronto-,” he said, “wouldn’t work well within the SI because they would likely use symbols B and H,” which are already in use for other units or prefixes within the SI, and it is best practise to avoid this in order to lessen the chances of confusion. “Hella-” and “bronto-,” he said, “wouldn’t work well within the SI because they would likely use symbols B and H,” which are already in use for other units

Brown stated that it is unclear when terms for such enormous numbers will be required; however, he is of the opinion that they ought to be resolved on as soon as possible rather than later.

“The current global datasphere is probably around 0.1 yottabytes, and therefore it will be a few years yet before the global datasphere crosses 1 yottabyte,” he added. “The worldwide datasphere will continue to grow at an exponential rate in the coming years.”

“However, the rate at which the global datasphere is expanding is accelerating at a rapid rate. When you take into account the necessity of beginning to think about and discuss larger data sizes for future planning and conceptual studies, in addition to the impending arrival of new, disruptive technologies such as quantum computing that may radically change the quantity of data produced, it makes sense to have these in place soon in order to be prepared for when they are required.

According to Brown, the earliest that this could take place is in November 2022, during the quadrennial meeting of the General Conference on Weight and Measures held by the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM). This is the meeting where changes to the SI are typically required to be agreed upon.

When asked how he felt knowing that “hella-” isn’t a likely candidate as a future SI prefix, Sendek stated, “I’d be lying if I said that didn’t disappoint me at all.” Sendek was asked how he felt knowing that “hella-” isn’t a likely contender as a future SI prefix. He stated that one of the primary reasons he supported “hella-” was so that scientists and mathematicians would be reminded not to take themselves too seriously.

He said, “Every once in a while, it’s wonderful to have a little bit of humour.”

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