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As more and more digital data is created and stored, the world needs more unit measurements to keep up with the ever-increasing numbers.
To do this, Friday’s 27th General Conference on Weights and Measures introduced four new prefixes for the International System of Units, or metric system: ronna (27 zeros after the first digit) and quetta (30 zeros), which are now on the at the top of the measurement range, and ronto (27 zeros after the decimal point) and quecto (30 zeros), which are now at the bottom.
“Most people are familiar with prefixes like milli- as in milligram,” Richard Brown, head of metrology at Britain’s National Physical Laboratory, who proposed the four new prefixes, told The Associated Press. “But this [new additions] are prefixes for the largest and smallest levels ever measured.”
Yotta (24 zeros) was the largest prefix in the metric system before the new additions. Now it can be said that the mass of the Earth is about 6 ronnagrams instead of 6,000 yottagrams. The sun can be said to be about 2,000 quettagrams instead of 2,000,000,000 yottagrams.
The new prefixes come at a time when scientists and industries are dealing with data that requires measurements beyond the current range.
“The change was largely driven by the growing demands of data science and digital storage, which already uses prefixes at the top of the existing range (yottabytes and zettabytes, for expressing vast amounts of digital information),” the National Physical Laboratory said in a statement. declaration.
According to the market research group International Data Corporation, the world is expected to have generated about 175 zettabytes (21 zeros) of data by 2025.
The small number prefixes (ronto and quecto) will be useful for quantum science and particle physics, the NPL said. The mass of an electron can be said to be about 1 rontogram instead of 0.001 yoctogram (the smallest prefix before the new additions).
This is the first expansion of the measurement system since 1991, according to the National Physical Laboratory.
“R” and “Q” stand for ronna and quetta, while “r” and “q” stand for ronto and quecto. Brown told The Associated Press that these letters were chosen because they were not yet used by other prefixes.
“It was about time. [We] need new words as things expand,” said Brown. “In just a few decades, the world has become a very different place.”