What's a Googol?

A googol is a very big number. It is 10100 (10 raised to the power of 100). Or, to put it another way...

10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000

(There are a hundred zeroes after the 1)

It's easier to write "10^100" or "10100" than to write out the number in full. This convenient way of expressing big numbers is exponential notation, and comes in handy for practical applications such as what is the weight of the planet earth?, how many watts is the sun in lightbulb-terms? etc.

Incidentally, the word Googol is similar to the name Google, as in GOOGLE the famous search-engine. Google is to do with Googol, but we're not quite sure why it's spelt slightly different. It is however concept-related, as the search engine was so named because it is to do with big numbers.

Other Googol related sites include the early learning site Googol Power, which includes music, cheerful animated characters, and cute video clips such as this: http://googolpower.com/googol.php

The number, A GOOGOL is big. How big in practical terms? Much more than all the grains of sand on all the beaches on the earth. In fact, bigger than the number of atoms in the known universe (estimated to be about 10^79).

The idea of the googol gives a whole new perspective to the idea of numerousness. Someone asked this to be put into practical terms; for example, how much room would a googol matchsticks take up? So, mad scientists that we are, we did a quick calculation some time ago. To envisage a googol matchsticks, take a cube 44 miles high, and fill it up with pingpong balls. Then expand each one of them to the size of the known universe. Then fill them all up with matchsticks. That is a googol matchsticks.

Although the googol is very big, it wasn't big enough for some people, so they invented the GOOGOLPLEX, which is 10^googol, written as 1 followed by a googol zeroes, except it would not be practical to write it, as there would not be enough ink.