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Thread: Comprehending Large Numbers

  1. #1 Comprehending Large Numbers 
    Forum Radioactive Isotope zinjanthropos's Avatar
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    Ever notice how disinterested people can get when you discuss a topic, cosmology & math especially, where large numbers are mentioned? Time, distance, & size are three subjects that tend to lend themselves to huge numbers. Seems that if one wants to lose an audience then all one needs to do is talk big numbers. Accompanying yawns complete with 'deer in the headlights' facial expressions may indicate we lack the ability to comprehend large sums. Don't really know if it's true but it's been an observation of mine. So to see if my intuition was close to being right, I tried to find something on it. I did find this....

    https://io9.gizmodo.com/how-to-compr...ers-1531604757

    Seems that we do have some trouble with big numbers but try to compensate by using some simple tricks. Thoughts


    All that belongs to human understanding, in this deep ignorance and obscurity, is to be skeptical, or at least cautious; and not to admit of any hypothesis, whatsoever; much less, of any which is supported by no appearance of probability...Hume
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    Bullshit Intolerant PhDemon's Avatar
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    I think you're right, it is easy to learn how many zeroes to put after the ten but getting a gut feeling for what large numbers mean is much harder... I tend to use analogies, for example in one book I read recently, the author said if the age of the earth was represented by the length of your arm, one swipe of a nail file would erase all human history.


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    Forum Radioactive Isotope zinjanthropos's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PhDemon View Post
    I think you're right, it is easy to learn how many zeroes to put after the ten but getting a gut feeling for what large numbers mean is much harder... I tend to use analogies, for example in one book I read recently, the author said if the age of the earth was represented by the length of your arm, one swipe of a nail file would erase all human history.
    Nice analogy. Geologic time seems to have a bunch of those comparisons. Must be a reason we do this.

    Comprehension of large numbers doesn't always mean understanding the enormity of something, I think it probably is the same for the incredibly small also. Quadrillions of cells in my body yet I find it difficult to visualize just how microscopic one is. Then on top of that, try to visualize an atom or the subatomic.

    I wonder, is it easier to visualize a universe, something we know is colossal in size? Do we think of it as one, a number we can deal with?
    All that belongs to human understanding, in this deep ignorance and obscurity, is to be skeptical, or at least cautious; and not to admit of any hypothesis, whatsoever; much less, of any which is supported by no appearance of probability...Hume
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  5. #4  
    Forum Radioactive Isotope zinjanthropos's Avatar
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    Should we care about this number? Is it important, worthy of the search for it, and will we or do we use it for anything?
    All that belongs to human understanding, in this deep ignorance and obscurity, is to be skeptical, or at least cautious; and not to admit of any hypothesis, whatsoever; much less, of any which is supported by no appearance of probability...Hume
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    Bullshit Intolerant PhDemon's Avatar
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    IIRC Prime numbers are used in security codes etc. So that is a use for finding bigger prime numbers.
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