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The World Generates So Much Data that New Unit Measurements Were Created to Keep Up

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The computer monitors display financial data.

The increasing amount of data being created and stored necessitates the use of new unit measurements.

Credit: Getty Images

As ever more digital data is created and stored, the world needs more unit measurements to keep up with the ever-expanding numbers.

To do so, the 27th General Conference on Weights and Measures on Friday introduced four new prefixes to the International System of Units, or metric system: ronna (27 zeroes after the first digit) and quetta (30 zeroes), which are now at the top of the measurement range, and ronto (27 zeroes after the decimal point) and quecto (30 zeroes), which are now at the bottom.

"Most people are familiar with prefixes like milli- as in milligram," Richard Brown, head of metrology at the U.K.'s National Physical Laboratory who proposed the four new prefixes, told The Associated Press. "But these [new additions] are prefixes for the biggest and smallest levels ever measured."

Yotta (24 zeroes) was the largest prefix in the metric system before the new additions. Now, the Earth's mass can be said to be about 6 ronnagrams rather than 6,000 yottagrams. The sun can be said to be about 2,000 quettagrams rather than 2,000,000,000 yottagrams.

From NPR
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