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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.

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.

R   March 5th, 2010 5:25 am ET

what about 10^-27?

How about Mello and Merri instead?

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.

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".

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!

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

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

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.

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)

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