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A Googol of Atoms?

A Directed Case in Estimation and Large Numbers



Author:

Stephen J. Shawl
Department of Physics and Astronomy
University of Kansas
shawl@ku.edu

Abstract:

What is a googol?  Invented by Edward Kasner, an American mathematician who popularized the number in his 1940 book, Mathematics and the Imagination, it is a 1 followed by a hundred zeros. This directed case in estimation and very large numbers was written for a college-level introductory astronomy course, although it could also be used in a variety of other courses in chemistry, planetary science, biology, and mathematics.

Objectives:
  • Practice using powers-of-ten notation.
  • Given a problem, decide when the use of approximate numbers is appropriate.
  • Compute approximate numbers in a problem solution.
  • Analyze simple problems that lend themselves to the use of approximations.
Keywords: Googol; scientific notation; powers of ten; relative sizes; estimation; approximation; the size of the universe
Topical Area: N/A
Educational Level: High school, Undergraduate lower division
Formats: PDF
Type/Method: Directed
Language: English
Subject Headings: Astronomy   Mathematics   Physics   Chemistry (General)  
Date Posted: 07/14/03
Date Modified: N/A
Copyright: Copyright held by the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science, University at Buffalo, State University of New York. Please see our usage guidelines, which outline our policy concerning permissible reproduction of this work.

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