Ronnagrams and quettameters: Scientists confirm new prefixes for large and small measurements

Author: Nishu November 21, 2022


Scientists have officially confirmed new prefixes to express the world’s largest and smallest measurements, from the unimaginably large to the infinitesimally small.

Joining the ranks of well-known prefixes such as kilo are ‘ronna’ and ‘quetta’ for the largest-defined numbers and ‘ronto’ and ‘quecto’ for the smallest.

Ronna is 1 followed by 27 zeroes – a billion billion billion – while quetta is 1 followed by 30 zeroes – a thousand times larger.

At the other end of the scale, ronto is a fraction of 1 that features 27 digits after the decimal point, while quecto is a thousand times smaller still.

The large prefixes will help classify the exponentially growing size requirements of data science and digital storage, while the small prefixes will be useful for quantum science and particle physics.

To put the new measurements into context, 10 quectograms is around the mass of a single bit of data as stored on your mobile phone.

At the other end of the scale, the mass of Jupiter is about 2 quettagrams, while the mass of Earth is six ronnagrams.

The large prefixes are needed to accommodate the exponentially growing size requirements of data science and digital storage (file photo)

The new prefixes

LARGEST

Ronna – 1 followed by 27 zeroes

Quetta – 1 followed by 30 zeroes

SMALLEST

Ronto – a zero, the decimal point, 26 zeros and then 1

(0.000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 001)

Quecto – a zero, the decimal point, 29 zeros and then 1

(0.000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 001)

Dr Richard Brown at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) led the proposal recommending the new names, which have been added to the International System of Units (SI), the agreed global standard for the metric system.

The change was voted on by global scientists and government representatives attending the 27th General Conference on Weights and Measures, which governs the SI and meets roughly every four years at Versailles Palace, west of Paris.

‘The new prefixes came into force the moment the vote was passed last Friday,’ Dr Brown told MailOnline. ‘It may take official documents and websites a few days to be updated though.’

Dr Brown said the new prefixes, just like all the other prefixes, are universally available for use with any units.

‘So you can have ronnametres and ronnagrams, just like you can have kilometres, kilograms, kilowatts, etcetera,’ he told MailOnline.

Ronna and quetta refer to the very large, while ronto and quectoc refer to the very small.

For example, one rontogram as can be written as 10-27 grams, which can also be expressed as 0.000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 001 grams

One quectogram is even smaller – 0.000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 001 grams.

The Earth’s mass can now be expressed as six ronnagrams after scientists voted to add new metric prefixes

Number of digital bits ‘will overtake atoms on Earth by 2170’

The number of digital bits will overtake the number of atoms on Earth within 150 years, according to a new study that warns of an impending ‘information catastrophe’.

21 November, 2022, 9:45 pm

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Monday, 21st November 2022

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