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March 4, 2010

'Hella' proposed as standard scientific prefix

Posted: 06:28 PM ET

"1,000 yottabytes? That's hellabytes."

So proclaims a T-shirt sold by the campaign to make "hella" the prefix for 10^27, an extremely large number written out as a 1 followed by 27 zeroes.

Apparently, there is not yet a standard prefix for this number, in the way that "kilo" is "thousand" and "mega" is "million." That's how you know that a "kilobyte" is 1,000 bytes and a "megabyte" is 1,000,000 bytes. But so far only prefixes for units up to 10^24 ("yotta") have names, according to the International System of Units (SI). Here are the established prefixes.

Now comes a Facebook page (with more than 37,000 fans and counting), and an online petition to get "hella," a hip, Northern California slang term that means "a whole lot of" as a standard prefix for 10^27.

Here's an excerpt from the Facebook page, written by physics student Austin Sendek at the University of California, Davis:

Addressing this issue presents an exciting opportunity. Since the SI system has traditionally adopted the last names of accomplished scientists for unit nomenclature, it follows that prefix designation should do the same. From this tradition comes the chance for the SI system to use nomenclature to honor a constantly overlooked scientific contributor: Northern California.

According to Sendek, since Northern California institutions have contributed greatly to scientific endeavors, it makes sense to honor the region with "hella." Apparently, that's where people originally started saying things like, "there are hella stars out tonight."

Speaking of stars, the word "hella" would be useful to describe the sun's energy, which is 4 x 10^27 watts according to NASA. That would be 4 hellawatts according to the proposal.

What do you think about bringing "hella" into scientific standard practice?

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J   March 4th, 2010 8:17 pm ET

Bringing “hella” into the scientific standard practices sounds like a hella of a good idea.

Kyle   March 4th, 2010 8:52 pm ET

I think this is a great idea. A little funny, but great. It's a positive step as far as getting the younger generations more interested in computer sciences and not just computers. With all these youngsters on Facebook and the like, we have entire generations growing up basically pre-trained to step into this field without being barred by the limits of older technology and I think that it's 'hella' important to show a bit of respect to them by incorporating their slang into legitimate venues.

Eric   March 4th, 2010 10:20 pm ET

Hellabytes is what you say when something is hella lame. But I still think this is a hella sweet Idea.

Kyle   March 4th, 2010 10:22 pm ET

Stop saying hella Cartman!

R   March 5th, 2010 5:25 am ET

what about 10^-27?

How about Mello and Merri instead?

Kris Wood   March 5th, 2010 5:44 am ET



...need I say more?

Mitch   March 5th, 2010 10:14 am ET

total facepalm...

to think this was suggested by a physics student, makes me want to get a refund for my degree to avoid being associated with morons like that.

This is a dumb Idea, surely it will be shot down.

Hella, slang for "hell of a" pertaining to a large quantity of something involves the word hell. In which hell is referring to the mythological/supernatural/religious world where the devil resides. I'm sure the Christian Scientist will not allow this to proceed.

rflulling   March 5th, 2010 11:01 am ET

I agree that this could work, if certain linguistic rules are applied. The idea I think, is to use the word Hell-a, which based on its common use would apply to allot. But then in regards to the Sun, it would be pronounced He-La, as in Helios. That would make sense. I could easily refer to the Suns energy as a Hella(He-La)Watt.

in the end, I am not sure if I am seeing this the same as the proponents of this Prefix. I think they just want Hell in something. But, I'll happily wait and see what people agree on before I critique the choices.

Abhishek   March 5th, 2010 11:04 am ET

Okay, that's 10^27 funny 🙂

Tami   March 5th, 2010 11:12 am ET

Since hella is derived from hell which generally is considered a cuss word and in and of itself has a negative connotation, I would reconsider the name. I am from NorCal and was there when the term originated. Just because it's popular does not mean it is appropriate. NorCal has many other sources to draw from that would be just as meaningful without using slang. NorCal should have a little more class than to denote itself and it's contribution by mere slang.

Hellas   March 5th, 2010 12:03 pm ET

"Hellas" or Ellas is the name of that part of the world also known as Greece: The birth place of Western civilization (Math, Science, Philosophy etc.); it is only fitting that this be used...just add an "s".

Jonathan   March 5th, 2010 12:24 pm ET

"hella" meaning "a hell of a lot of" might be funny.

However with USA prudishness turning "damn" into "darn", "Oh God" into "Oh gosh" and the old Hays Code in films, and now the demand (successfully) to "clothe" a nude snow-sculpture all leads me to think not a "hella" much of a chance.

What is wrong with you guys anyway? Guns = fine, OK, dandy. Slightly strong words = censorship

And don't get me started on the "wardrobe malfunction" of Ms Jackson leading to a "hella" of a fine on the broadcasters.

Brooke   March 5th, 2010 12:57 pm ET

No. God, no.

Bill Nye the Science Guy   March 5th, 2010 1:09 pm ET

I believe this is a great idea. If there is not an official notation of the number at this point, then give Northern California some credit and use "Hella". The word has nationwide recognition as an adjective for various things, why not give it an official use? That would be hella smart.

Ubik   March 5th, 2010 1:51 pm ET

I first heard the term "Hella" from watching Strong Bad's "Teen Girl Squad". Not only do I think this is a Hella cool idea, I also think it's Sooo good!

Shawn   March 5th, 2010 2:22 pm ET

As a life-long Pacific Northwesterner, I despise the use of the word "hella" in all situations. Here we prefer "sweet", "awesome" or "tight", probably 'cuase we're smarter than most of the country (Seattle being second most literate city in the US in 2009 next to Minneapolis), not hella-retarded.

I think "Shaq" would be a good SI prefix as opposed to "hella". Example: "Our server process as many as 40 Shaq-bytes a year". 'Shaq' could also be used colloquially: "Aw man, I skipped breakfast this morning and am Shaq hungry right now, bro".

Spooly-T   March 5th, 2010 2:47 pm ET

it is Hellawesome

Josh   March 5th, 2010 3:10 pm ET

that's hella rad, yo.

JRock   March 5th, 2010 4:11 pm ET

Hella good idea.

robin   March 11th, 2010 5:48 pm ET

Being that I live in Oakland... And yes, I "Hella" love Oakland, this is hella dope. Yes, Silicon Valley and NorCal has hella contributed to the advancement of tecnology to date, so we deserve it. What other word can you use that would make a whole community proud, from the streets to the Universities to the multi million dollor white collar offices! Let's back this. I'm hella proud!

Heinz   March 11th, 2010 6:53 pm ET

I was always under the impression that the multi prefixes, deka, hekta kilo, mega, giga, tera etc, came from the Greek language, just as deci, centi, milli, micro and nano are fractionals coming from Latin.
Why not stick with a system that seems to have worked fine, and seems to have quite a bit of logic recommending it?

ryan   March 12th, 2010 11:28 am ET

Hella cool!

dan   March 12th, 2010 1:29 pm ET

I thought Cartman was behind this idea.

Morgan   March 12th, 2010 5:54 pm ET

I think the idea is hella good.

katgod   March 12th, 2010 7:39 pm ET

Cartman is behind this idea, I think he heard it from the gnomes.

AraiR32   March 13th, 2010 1:40 pm ET

One more reason to make fun of Americans:

Adopting slang for scientific purposes.

Michele   March 13th, 2010 4:10 pm ET

As a Scientist myself it sounds like one of the worst ideas I have ever heard. All it does is give validity to ignorant people who think it's "cool" to use such asinine terms that aren't even words. It's making a mockery of the scientific world and all that we do. Not to mention that it justifies people thinking Americans are stupid and not to be taken seriously.

R   March 14th, 2010 3:16 am ET

The fact that someone would discourage a young, creative, and inspiring student from attempting to make a change in science, no matter how small or 'stupid', is precisely what is keeping major scientific, technological, and political advances at bay in this world. I feel terribly sorry for anyone who can't handle the lighthearted sense of humor, compassion, and direction that Mr. Sendek is attempting to introduce into the future of science and sincerely hope that their closed mind doesn't follow them into the scientific realm where they themselves may in fact be forced to consider new, creative, off-beat, or even "asinine" ideas to advance our hella small body of knowledge about the universe.

Violet   March 14th, 2010 5:29 pm ET

This is to Mitch and the rest of you idiots. This was meant as a joke! The only reason he's proposing the idea now is because it has received so much attention from the media. But even he acknowledges the fact that the chances of it being considered is 'hella small'. (Btw, I happen to know Sendek 🙂 )

Matt   March 15th, 2010 2:14 am ET

All the people who have a problem with this are hellalame. Yeah, that's right, I just called you 10^27 lame units, ice-burrrrrrrn

Austin Sendek   March 15th, 2010 3:01 am ET

Thank you, R. You said everything I would have said, in a slightly more articulate and insulting manner!

Sarah   March 15th, 2010 2:54 pm ET

I like it!

Someone   March 16th, 2010 4:17 pm ET

Hell is "bright" in German. My friend Hella's name would translate to "Sunny". I think this is merely a bright idea! (pun intended).

Breaker of bad news   May 24th, 2010 4:00 pm ET

Sorry, but this nomenclature has already been assigned, along with a few after it.

Processor or Virtual Storage Disk Storage :
· 1 Bit = Binary Digit
· 8 Bits = 1 Byte
· 1024 Bytes = 1 Kilobyte
· 1024 Kilobytes = 1 Megabyte
· 1024 Megabytes = 1 Gigabyte
· 1024 Gigabytes = 1 Terabyte
· 1024 Terabytes = 1 Petabyte
· 1024 Petabytes = 1 Exabyte
· 1024 Exabytes = 1 Zettabyte
· 1024 Zettabytes = 1 Yottabyte
· 1024 Yottabytes = 1 Brontobyte
· 1024 Brontobytes = 1 Geopbyte

Disk Storage:
· 1 Bit = Binary Digit
· 8 Bits = 1 Byte
· 1000 Bytes = 1 Kilobyte
· 1000 Kilobytes = 1 Megabyte
· 1000 Megabytes = 1 Gigabyte
· 1000 Gigabytes = 1 Terabyte
· 1000 Terabytes = 1 Petabyte
· 1000 Petabytes = 1 Exabyte
· 1000 Exabytes = 1 Zettabyte
· 1000 Zettabytes = 1 Yottabyte
· 1000 Yottabytes = 1 Brontobyte
· 1000 Brontobytes = 1 Geopbyte

Jessica   July 11th, 2010 1:54 pm ET

One of the most compelling arguments propelled by an even more rudamentarily genius explanation.

I Have Yet to Metadata I Didn’t Like » AI3:::Adaptive Information   August 16th, 2010 2:00 am ET

[...] (North California slang for "a whole lot of") to get adopted by science bodies. See [4] One of more popular posts on this blog has been, M.K. Bergman, 2009. "‘Structs’: [...]» Blog Archive » I Have Yet to Metadata I Didn’t Like   September 22nd, 2010 3:27 am ET

[...] (North California slang for "a whole lot of") to get adopted by science bodies. See [4] One of more popular posts on this blog has been, M.K. Bergman, 2009. "‘Structs’: [...]

Jenny   March 8th, 2011 1:14 pm ET

I don't use figures up to 10^27 in my work, but I'm sure if I did I wouldn't care about seeing hella as a prefix.
Again, it's a prefix, not a scientific theory. Who the hell cares? I hella don't.
It's great to have little oddities in science. If students and scientists on a daily basis do end up using 10^27, then this will be a nice addition with a little story behind it to help them remember the prefix for such an obscure figure.
Reasons against hella? I can't really see them. The word no longer has ties to the word "hell", other than the phrase helluva lot of, but the meaning has changed. Just like "silly" used to mean stupid, only now it's a more endearing term, you get my point? If we don't treat hella like hell (because it definitely isn't) then the only thing stopping us is the fact that it's slang and it's "less respectable". Why the big deal though? I don't see why we should be worried about how other countries take us seriously over such a small contribution to science. Our accomplishments in science itself should be enough to hold their tongues.

Jenny   March 8th, 2011 1:19 pm ET

Also, the correct usage of hella is similar to "really" or "a lot of"

ex: That ravioli was hella delicious (as really)
ex: There are hella stars out tonight! (as a lot of)

However using hella as "hell" is not correct usage, as in
ex: I just bought hella of a lot of shoes.

Since hella is derived from "helluva lot of", the previous usage would be redundant.

Keane Rosario   May 19th, 2011 5:49 am ET

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Andy   January 19th, 2012 4:38 am ET

I think and are too similar.

Alec Marken   January 26th, 2012 6:09 pm ET

I wrote this a few years ago. Born in San Francisco and having lived in the area for my first 20 years, I suppose I qualify as a native "hella" user...


Hella makes me laugh,
Hella makes me smile,
Hella now exists as a computer file.

Hella has a meaning,
Hella is a word,
Hella’s hella useful & I hope you’ve heard.

Hella’s got range,
Hella’s got style,
Hella’s why this poem can ramble on for a while.

Hella’s from up north,
Hella gets around,
Hella makes a hella funky poem, I’ve found.

“Hella cool” or “Hella neat”,
“Hella whatever”, don’t be discreet,
Hella get your point across,
Hella you’ll never be at a loss!

~By Alec Marken, actor/dancer/producer/leader of Deep Stirrings (Folkrock band)

NorCal707   May 1st, 2012 10:17 am ET

hella sick idea

Amelie   October 7th, 2012 9:13 pm ET

Amazing Kim, like the OP, I keep thinking what hapnpeed to me wasn't really attempted rape, because rape is something horrible that happens in dark alleys and I wasn't hurt that badly, and what difference does it make, and rape is such an awful word anyway and and and Only recently did I start to consider what hapnpeed to me as a man setting me up for rape. After we'd discussed my wanting to wait on having sex; after he had described how, if he wanted to rape someone and not get caught, he'd get a woman really drunk (but that would be wrong, he was quick to assure me); we went out drinking till I was too drunk to stand, and he tried to rape me when I couldn't fight back. (And I've just edited that sentence twice to make it say what actually hapnpeed because I wasn't hurt, and he didn't mean anything by it, and I'm just casting suspicion on him and and and .)I tried to write about this a while ago but the guy in question is reading my blog now, as is one of our mutual friends, and I don't feel trying to defend myself again But he didn't mean anything by it and he was sorry afterwards! (Yeah sorry I started screaming and crying. Because after I stopped crying, he dumped me for not having sex with him.)It's been over 10 years. But I still can't call it what it was.

In home Personal training Long Island   December 6th, 2013 11:53 am ET

I like it if it's being used for scientific uses. Otherwise i can care less. If NASA finds it useful how can you go against it. NASA
is the closes thing we have to a super hero in this world. Lets do it a hella amount of times!
I think?

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