Naming convention of Millions and Billions (and Thousands of Millions)

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Giugiaro, 10 Aug 2019.

  1. Giugiaro

    Giugiaro Member

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    Hello. It's me again.

    I know that the short scale on number naming has been long adopted by Britain since 1974 and, what concerns English speaking countries, the rule "thousand, million, billion, trillion" apply.

    Either people like it or not.

    What brings me here is the confusion created when translating figures between information of long scale countries and short scale countries. In Portugal we started having that discussion because news agencies literally translate the numbers without converting scales. A lot of US and Brazilian figures are noticed wrongly because of the use of the short scale on those countries, greatly inflating their perceived values.

    Case in point, the news that Apple reached its market value of a Billion USD. The information was passed down in Portugal as "Um Bilião de Dólares", making the Portuguese believe Apple is worth 1,000,000,000,000.00 USD (1x10^12 USD) and not 1,000,000,000.00 USD (1x10^9 USD). The same mistake was repeated in Spain.

    Obviously, as it seems to be universal, comments on newspaper websites and Facebook pages were the usual stuff.

    For Portuguese, there's also a difference in syntax, as the European, African and Asian Portuguese speakers use Bilião and Trilião for 1x10^12 and 1x10^18 respectively, the Brazilian Portuguese speakers use Bilhão and Trilhão for 1x10^9 and 1x10^12 respectively. Despite this, not everyone knows the two graphemes corresponde to two different values and some gramar websites even say wrongly the two terms correspond to the same value. (But depends on where and by whom it is being said!?)

    Has this sort of issue also happened on UK news? Any issues that have risen from misinterpreted number values?
     
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  3. sprunt

    sprunt Member

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    Apple *is* worth 1x10^12 USD or was - it's now just $908.31 billion, assuming you're talking about recently, not many years ago.

    $1 billion isn't a particulalry high value, there are many companies with that market capitalisation. I think Apple was the first to a trillion.
     
  4. SS4

    SS4 Established Member

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    We typically use the short scale exclusively now. Goodness knows why when standard form is much better and clearer
     
  5. ac6000cw

    ac6000cw Established Member

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    It seems to be accepted (and has been for some time) in the UK that million = 1x10^6, billion = 1x10^9, trillion = 1x10^12

    It does also align with the use of 'named 1000^(3*n)' multipliers/dividers in science and engineering e.g. kilo, mega, giga, tera, peta (going up to 1x10^15) and milli, micro, nano, pico, femto (going down to 1x10^-15)
     
  6. asharpe

    asharpe Member

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    I've worked with a few people in nuclear physics who always spoke about budgets and costs in terms of kilo dollars ($k) and mega dollars ($M) and presumably they would be happy with giga dollars. If you are used to SI prefixes it's only the first time you hear it that it sounds odd.

    I don't mind the lakh crore system either now I'm accustomed to it.

    But the thing that really pisses me off is time zones and BST/DST, as a planet we all need to agree on a time, and then adjust our own schedules around that. The railways put a stop to each town having its own time and now the internet needs to stop each country having its own time.
     
  7. Aictos

    Aictos On Moderation

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    That ain’t going to work because if the world settled on one time as you are suggesting, it would mean that 8am in London in the summer would see light but in Los Angeles for example, that would be dark as people be sleeping so it’s a non starter.

    The only thing that I can agree on is abolishing summer time, there is no need for it at all!
     
  8. Giugiaro

    Giugiaro Member

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    I would guess that interpreting milliards from French, Spanish, German and Portuguese sources is pretty straight forward (Thousand Million = Billion in English), but when the 1x10^12 value is used as a billion is those countries, as there ever been a situation where the news mistakenly wrote/said Billion instead of Trillion?

    That's the issue at hand. There's also a (in my opinion) stupid way of presenting the numbers in four digits, like 1,456; 1 456; 1.456 and 1456 million Euro. Which one is the One Billion Four Hundred and Fifty Six Million and which is the One Million, Four Hundred and Fifty Six Thousand?

    It's been a nightmare reading the news regarding railway investments since big numbers are expressed in very arbitrary ways.
     
  9. JamesT

    JamesT Member

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    Why does that matter? LA is 8 hours behind, so in a world time setup (assuming based round UTC), they just need to shift things by 8 hours. Instead of working 9-5, they’d be working 5-1.
    Likewise with summertime businesses that align closely to daylight would change their opening hours rather than everyone changing their clocks.
    It might take a bit of getting used to, but given that time is essentially arbitrary why does it have to be the way it currently is? Of course it would be somewhat easier for us if UTC was chosen as nothing would change. :)
     
  10. John Webb

    John Webb Established Member

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    It's always amazed me how newspapers in particular (in the UK) refer to £Xm. To express it as £XM makes it much clearer it's a Million (Mega) pounds, not X thousandths (milli) of a pound! There is a complete international system of suffixes and agreed abbreviations for them which has existed for many years in science and engineering. It's freely available to all, why don't we standardise on the existing standard? (You will appreciate I am involved in science and to a lesser extent in engineering.)
     
  11. si404

    si404 Member

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    That "work 5-1" for Los Angeles under global UTC (which probably works the best for minimising this) puts a day change near the end of their workday! China, Japan, etc just before their 9-5 equivalent starts.

    Total non-starter for global time. Though perhaps regional (eg Europe and Africa on +0, mid-Eurasia on +4, the Americas on -4 and -8, Pacific ring on +8) with localised schedule shifting. But then you might as well just have the current shifting so you change your watch to fit schedules rather than have to find out what the local schedule is.
     
  12. edwin_m

    edwin_m Veteran Member

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    With the [spit!] Leader of The Commons, Jacob Rees Mogg, instructing his underlings to address him in traditional language and use Imperial units, I wonder if someone will quote him the cost of something in the traditional British Billions, leading to a sort of financial-political equivalent of the Gimli Glider?
     
  13. Aictos

    Aictos On Moderation

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    It’s a stupid idea and a non starter for reasons I’ve already explained.

    Why tamper with a perfectly good system?
     
  14. PeterC

    PeterC Established Member

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    At A level I was taught never to refer to large numbers by name but always in terms of powers of 10 so no special word for 10^9 or 10^12 to arguie about.
     
  15. asharpe

    asharpe Member

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    I've taught A-Level Physics (but left teaching a couple of years ago) and I always made sure my students knew the SI prefixes from femto up to giga and could read and write them correctly as it was expected from the sylabus. μ, m and M often took a while to write correctly under exam pressure. Computer memory means most got the positive exponents but they often had no sense of the smallest units.

    For my GCSE classes I think I stuck to milli through giga.
     
  16. si404

    si404 Member

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    Doing GSCE electronics, I had so many milli-kilo cancellations (and mega, micro and nano turned up regularly too), I just wrote the SI prefixes in the calculation as it was easier than writing down in standard form just to cancel out.

    I then did this everywhere - even converting from standard form into prefixes and converting back at the end - I needed to unlearn for exams due to markers not getting it but exams were where it was most useful - less writing, which I was never fast at and got cramp when doing a lot as fast as I could. And outside exams I don't have to write down my working beyond what I need to help me calculate.
     
  17. DynamicSpirit

    DynamicSpirit Established Member

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    Firstly, because, I would say your/@asharpe's proposed system would make it harder, not easier, to work with or interact with people across different time zones. For example, I often communicate with people in California - 8 hours behind UK time. It's relatively easy for me to remember that they are 8 hours behind: I just subtract 8 hours from whatever time it is in the UK, and I immediately have a pretty good idea whether those people are likely to be working, asleep, or free. So I only need to remember one number - and if I forget it, a quick Google of 'time now California' is all I need. With your system, I'd have to remember the complete California schedule of work 5-1, dinner 1-3am etc.

    Secondly, because it would make figuring out even the local time intuitively harder for anyone not lucky enough to be living in the selected location where 12am = midnight, and 12pm=Midday. How would you define days? Would Monday become Tuesday in the middle of the afternoon in some countries? Would 'midnight' be at 5pm in some places? It ought to be obvious how much harder that would make it for the majority of people who actually don't need to worry about anyone's time zone except their own.
     
  18. DynamicSpirit

    DynamicSpirit Established Member

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    I disagree: I would say that, in countries about the same latitude as the UK, you need summer time in order to make daylight match when people usually want to be active. That's because in temperate latitudes, the number or hours of daylight varies hugely (for example, about 8 hours in winter to 16 hours in summer of the sun being above the horizon - depending how far north you are). Without summer time, that increase of daylight from winter to summer would occur 'symmetrically' - for example, the sun would rise 4 hours later and set 4 hours earlier. That doesn't really work for our lifestyles because the extra daylight is very useful in the evenings, but actually disruptive in the mornings (when it could easily disrupt people's sleep if the sun rose too early). By putting the clocks forward an hour in the summer, we skew the hours, so the sun only rises 3 hours earlier than in winter, but sets 5 hours later. That fits far better with most people's lifestyles.

    On the other hand, countries much nearer the equator generally have no need for summer time because the sunrise and sunset times don't vary by nearly as much between summer and winter - being pretty close to 12 hours of the sun being above the horizon throughout the year.
     
  19. edwin_m

    edwin_m Veteran Member

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    I'd say it would be better to be on "summer time" all year so we get extra light in the evenings in spring and autumn, when people are working through the entire hours of daylight. This would make sunrise very late in winter in Scotland, but they could have a different time zone if they wanted.
     
  20. asharpe

    asharpe Member

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    If you work 9-5 then you should try and switch to 8-4. You would get the same result of more daylight in the evening if you shift your sleep by an hour too. I work those hours all year round (or sometimes a bit earlier in summer) and wouldn't dream of working past 5pm unless I am working from home in my garden.

    I would not support any change to the timezone of the UK away from GMT. People who want that change just need to engage with their employers. 9-5 I'm sure evolved into the norm for a reason but I think if it's no longer relevant then it will evolve into something else.
     
  21. DynamicSpirit

    DynamicSpirit Established Member

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    So you don't want us to change (beyond abolishing daylight savings time) but you want people in every other country in the World to swap to our timezone, is that correct?
     
  22. edwin_m

    edwin_m Veteran Member

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    I tried that one year - stayed on the same UTC time when the clocks changed and got the train an hour earlier. I found it hard to get home an hour earlier as everyone just assumed I'd be there until my normal finish time. While many employers allow flexibility schools don't and the lack of daylight in the evening discourages after-school activities. Studies have also shown that the extra road accidents in the evening outweigh the reduction in the morning, probably because more people are around at that time.

    I think the issue is also around tourism. For example in the autumn and spring the daylight might be around 6am to 6pm. People who want to go on day trips will probably not set out until after morning peak, by which time 3+ hours of daylight have gone, and if they don't set out back until after evening peak then it will have been dark for at least an hour by then. Changing the clocks to give more daylight in the evening would effectively extend the season for certain activities by a month or so in each of spring and autumn.
     
  23. Bevan Price

    Bevan Price Established Member

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    American influence on the media (initially) then spread to science and other fields, probably starting in the 1960s or 1970s. .
     

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