back to article Beeb measures Blighty in doormats

The BBC's improbable units department was in fine form last week when it decided to quantify the land area of the United Kingdom in doormats. In this illuminating piece on just how may noughts a trillion has, Auntie notes that Blighty's 244,820 sq km area is the equivalent of 1,000,000,000,000 doormats, based on a standard …


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  1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge


    If even the Beeb is going to use the US definition of a billion (10^9), instead of the UK one (10^12), the least they could do is not use poor old Blighty for their example.

    1. Deebster

      UK billion = 10**9 for almost 40 years

      The BBC article points out that the UK definition of billion has matched the US one since 1974.

      I too prefer a billion to be defined as a million to the power of two, but do keep up

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Not really ...

        The British government started using billion = 10**9 around then, but the correct definition is the one that correctly describes all usage of the word, not just government usage.

        The trouble is that people for whom billion = 10**12 don't in practice have many opportunities to use the word, and in the few cases where they could use it they tend not to in order to avoid confusion, so the 10**12 sense of billion is very hard to detect just by observing usage.

        My personal opinion is that everyone should stop using the word. In particular, any sum of money relating to the whole country should be expressed in terms of so many pounds per inhabitant. That way there would be a vague chance that a reasonable proportion of the population might have some sort of intuitive feel for what the figures actually mean.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          if a bi-million is 1 million ^2, should not a tri-million be 1 million ^3 ?

    2. Just Thinking


      @Phil You make it sound as if this is news to you. When you hear that the country is losing 3 billion a week you do know that they mean 10^9 not 10^12?

      If not I have some really good news for you. The national debt, usually expressed in trillions, is a million times smaller than you thought!

      1. O RLY

        Re: Erm...

        actually, only 1000 times smaller. Sadly...

  2. TRT Silver badge

    Just goes to show...

    not only are they content to walk all over us, but they'll wipe their feet while they are at it.

  3. Chris Miller

    Did they say that?

    "a 'large house and garden' can comfortably roll out 1,000 doormats"

    Seems to have vanished from the web page, but that would make the plot size 240 sq m or ~1/16 of an acre - did they mean 10,000?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Another perfectly valid way of spending our money.

    FFS, what the hell is that all about ????

  5. Phil Holden 1

    Septic measurements?

    So auntie beeb is now using the short scale like our septic cousins over the pond? Im sure this will make the recession seem a little less significant if very one imagines we're a thousand times better off...

  6. takuhii

    Nice to see where my license fee is going!!

  7. Ian Stephenson

    So a TerraMat (TMt) then?

  8. theastrodragon

    Who cares about doormats?

    What a silly unit to use, even for the beeb.

    They should have course used the much more popular uk area measurement, the beermat.

  9. Dances With Sheep

    Standard form

    In the name of all that is holy, will the buggers *PLEASE* just use standard form and stop all the fannying about?

    Saying 10^12 makes far more sense.....

    ....... it's also more amusing to point out the UK is in debt to the tune of one tera-quid.

    1. Kamal Hashmi

      Re: Standard form - SI standards

      SI prefixes with:short scale / long scale names

      10^6 - mega - Million / Million

      10^9 - giga - Billion / Milliard

      10-12 - tera - Trillion / Billion

      10^15 - peta - Quadrillion / Billiard

      10^18 - exa - Quintillion / Trillion

      10^21 - xetta - Sextillion / Trilliard

      10^24 - yotta - Septillion / Quadrillion

      Note that the short form bears little relation to the power of 10, e.g. Septillion is 10^24 but 24 isn't 7 times any integer, whereas 24 is 6 (million) times 4 - hence Quadrillion. Simples.

      However the short form is more universally used as the world isn't run by techies but by Marketing and PR (e.g. D.Cameron).

      This also explains a lot about the world today...

  10. I understand now

    How useful. I feel thoroughly enlightened

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Apparently they're afraid of noughts...

    ... that with embracing the american way, the short scale, claiming it's the more modern way to boot. Their world just got a few noughts smaller, eh. Fitting for short bus specials, I say.

    Me, I stick to a good game and keep the milliards, billiards, and trilliards.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Probably how they come up with how many should pay the licence fee and how they come up with their lying "100,000 licence evaders court last week" bollox.

  13. misterwh

    Millions and billions

    Tis a pity we've moved to billion = 1000 million, rather than the old-style million million. Does anyone else frequently mishear million as billion and vice versa? "The government has invested eleventy --illion pounds in X" etc...

  14. Tim Parker

    Trillion Brillion Squillion

    "Some people still think a billion is a million-million, which is really a trillion, and they think a trillion iis something else"

    That sounds a little snitty - and is not strictly correct - we only seemed to quasi-officially starting using short scale measurements in government in the mid-seventies, and some of us still lapse back to long scale measures (at least in part) except in technical documents.


  15. Simon B

    Yet ANOTHER reason I dispise paying TV TAX to these twats

  16. working for the man


    Isn't the accepted SI definition of billion now 10^9 and not 10^12? Shame

    What's next- sulfur?

    1. Dug Stokes
      Thumb Down


      Don't get me started on Sulfur. It might be the 'standard' (damn you French), but even 'Sulfur' is being used in Exams, and I spotted it on the Daily Mail the other day.

      Next it'll be 'program'...

      1. GrahamT

        thin end of the wedge

        After sulfur we would get aluminum, which is but a short step to chromum, strontum and germanum

        1. Armando 123

          So what's the problum?

  17. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    I went to school in the '70s...

    and a million million is a billion, a billion billion is a trillion, a trillion trillion is a quadrillion, etc., 'til the I'm in the cold cold ground.

    1. The Equestrian

      Billions and Billions


      Used to be

      Million = mono-illion = million**1

      Billion= bi-illion = million**2

      Trillion = tri-illion = million**3

      Hence quadrillion = million**4

      The prefix counted the power of millions

      1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        No, the prefix indicates that you've run out of units and need another one.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Thumb Up

          run out of units

          just inflation, mi, bi,tri... it just means "a number bigger than you plebs can count".

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      And while we're at it, what's with all these newfangled horseless carriages on the roadways these days? And who says the Earth is round? That's heresy!

    3. davtom

      A billion billion is a trillion?


      European (generally excluding Britain now) usage: a billion = 10^12. A billion billions are 10^24 which is a quadrillion.

      USA (generally including Britain, unfortunately) usage: a billion = 10^9. A billion billions are 10^18 which is a quintillion.

  18. Gert Selkobi
    Thumb Up

    SPB Banner mouseover

    I'm probably very slow on the uptake here, but I've just noticed the mouseover effect on the SPB Reg banner. Brilliant!

    The BBC dumbing down again? I'll head on over then.....

  19. Pen-y-gors

    An alternative:

    A trillion pence is what the London Olympics will cost....which is enough for four stacks from London to the Moon (excluding thickness of the glue)

  20. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Groan! internet researchers

    > Some people still think a billion is a ....

    Only if you rely on a superficial bout of Googling and swallow the first definition you stumble across. In the UK a billion has universally and unambiguously meant 10**9 since the 1970's. So no, there aren't any "some people" any more (and probably haven't been any for decades), just like there aren't "some people who think" .. Britain still uses pounds, shillings and pence.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Pandering to the Americans again

    Why oh why did we stop using the Milliard

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