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Mega, Giga, Tera, and Now the Hella

A campaign to name the number 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 "hella" is gaining support on an online petition, it emerged Tuesday.

More than 20,000 users of Facebook, including scientists and students, signed the petition calling for "hella" to be officially recognized by the International System of Units (SI).

Founder of the campaign Austin Sendek, a physics student at the University of California, said recent breakthroughs in science meant SI needed to go further with its classification of long numbers.

"As you know, the largest number with a designated SI prefix is 10^24, which carries the name 'yotta-,'" Sendek wrote. "However, in our world of increasing physical awareness and experimental precision, this number is no longer a satisfactory 'upper bound' in scientific nomenclature."

Sendek and his petition signatories believe naming numbers in the 10^27 category is of "critical importance for scientists in all fields." He said these numbers are vital to representing "the wattage of the sun, distances between galaxies, or the number of atoms in a large sample."

For example, the energy released by the sun would be better described as 0.3 hellawatts according to Sendek, rather than 300 yottawatts. Sendek proposed the prefix hella as a tribute to Northern California, which is home to several notable scientific institutions.

"However, science isn't all that sets Northern California apart from the rest of the world," Sendek wrote. "The area is also notorious for the creation and widespread usage of the English slang 'hella,' which typically means 'very,' or can refer to a large quantity (e.g. 'there are hella stars out tonight')."

Official SI prefixes:

10 = deca
100 = hecto
1,000 = kilo
1,000,000 = mega
1,000,000,000 = giga
1,000,000,000,000 = tera
1,000,000,000,000,000 = peta
1,000,000,000,000,000,000 = exa
1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 = zetta
1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 = yotta
1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 = unnamed