History of the Universe

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Scientific Notation

In this story we will often meet things which are very large or very small.

The scientific way to talk about large numbers is to write them like this: 1.23*104. This means that you must move the decimal point 4 places to the right to find the true number. So 1.23*104 is exactly the same as 12,300.00. Notice that the decimal point has moved 4 places to the right.

This method of writing numbers is called scientific notation.

It can be used to write very small numbers as well.

For example we can change 0.00000567 into a number like 5.67 by moving the decimal point. So to restore the decimal point to its original position we need to move it six places to the left. So in scientific notation we write 5.67-6. The negative sign means "move the point to the left to get back to the original number".


    1.23*104 = 12,300

    5.67-6 = 0.00000567

We will use this system occasionally to show large and small numbers.

In addition scientists give special names to certain large and small numbers.

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Written by Wyken Seagrave
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