What's a Googol?
Have you ever wondered what the number googol is? Or where it came from?
Where did the word 'googol' originate?
Words of wisdom are spoken by children at least as often as by scientists. The name 'googol' was invented by a child (Dr. Kasner's nine-year-old nephew) who was asked to think up a name for a very big number, namely, 1 with a hundred zeros after it.
He was very certain that this number was not infinite, and therefore equally certain that it had to have a name. At the same time that he suggested 'googol', he gave a name for an even larger number — 'Googolplex'. A googolplex is much larger than a googol — but still finite — as the inventor of the name was quick to point out.
It was first suggested that a googolplex should be 1, followed by writing zeros until you got tired. This is a description of what would happen if one actually tried to write a googolplex, but different people get tired at different times and it would never do to have Carnera a better mathematician than Dr. Einstein, simply because he had more endurance.
The googolplex then, is a specific finite number, with so many zeros after the 1 that the number of zeros is a googol. A googolplex is much bigger than a googol, much bigger even than a googol times a googol. A googol times a googol would be 1 with 200 zeros, whereas a googolplex is 1 with a googol of zeros.
You will get some idea of the size of this very large but finite number from the fact that there would not be enough room to write it, if you went to the farthest star, touring all the nebulae and putting down zeros every inch of the way."
- Kasner and Newman, Mathematics and the Imagination
History of the 'Googols'
Why did we name the birds 'Googols'?
A year before we started working on Multiplication Vacation, my daughter Maya started asking me about the names for bigger and bigger numbers. We finally reached a googol and a googolplex. Both Maya and her younger brother Colin were fascinated with these two numbers. They had so much fun asking friends and adults if they knew what a googol was and Maya showed her friends a googol by printing a one and a hundred zeros on a piece of paper.
When it came time to name the characters in our math show, the kids said the bird puppets we were designing had to be called Googols. Colin said, "It's because there can be googols of learning buddies in the Universe" and Maya decided that they were "googols of fun" — a saying we had started to use at home.
What is Planet Dzzzt?
Dzzzt is the planet where Azatara and Cozmo now currently live. It is a peaceful planet orbiting the star 47 Ursae Majoris in the Milky Way Galaxy. Although Dzzzt is a fictional planet, its star is real. It is very possible that a planet could orbit star 47 Ursae Majoris. This star is similar to our own sun, about seven billion years old and located about 51 light years from Earth. (One light year is the distance light travels in 1 year, which is equal to about 10 trillion kilometers).
What is Planet Pffft?
Planet Pffft (a fictional planet) is located in galaxy Andromeda. This planet died thousands of years ago and the family of Azatara and El Mundo moved to the Milky Way Galaxy. Azatara and Cozmo settled on Dzzzt and El Mundo came to Earth.
How do Azatara, Cozmo, El Mundo and their friends travel through space and time?
The Googols and their friends are able to travel great distances in the universe using the Googols' powers. These powers were passed on to the Googols from their ancestors. They use advanced mathematical principles (far beyond Earth's current evolution of mathematics) to be able to turn themselves and others into energy, bend space and travel through time.
Visit our Characters section to meet the 'Googols' and their friends!
Googol Good Links
Googol is just such a fun word for kids and for many children it may even have been their first word. Learning about a Googol was a big discovery for my children. It opened their minds to the concept of large numbers, infinity, and the magnitude of the universe. Here are some googol sites we especially liked.
A directed, interrupted case in estimation and large numbers.
The story of mathematics starts at least 5,000 years ago in Ancient Egypt. Tradition holds that the first geometers were egyptian.
Explore the world of big numbers. Discover how big and how small our world is. How big is a zillion? How small is a quadrillion?