back to article Quixotic Californian crusade to officially recognize the hellabyte and hellagram is going hella nowhere

In 2010, Austin Sendek, then a physics student at UC Davis, created a petition seeking recognition for prefix "hella-" as an official International System of Units (SI) measurement representing 1027. "Northern California is home to many influential research institutions, including the University of California, Davis, the …

  1. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge


    That would have been a bodacious prefix; I'm hella bummed, dude.

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge

      Re: Bogus


  2. Adrian 4 Silver badge

    B, H

    Surely they'd be b and h, not B and H ?

    Or .. I guess most of the positive prefixes are upper case. Why is that, when k for kilo is lower ?

    1. mordac

      Re: B, H

      SI tries to avoid ambiguity in units and prefixes.

      If kilo was abbreviated to uppercase K it could be confused with Kelvin.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: K

        Accept it wouldn't though would it, I'll have a 25 Kelvin-gram bag of spuds please. I need to drive 380 kelvin-meters today. Really?

        If it's a random number with no context, then any suffix is of no consequence. But no-one [outside of pure maths] talks of a thousand "of anything", it's always "of something"; distance, mass, volume, time, or perhaps temperature

        1. LDS Silver badge

          Re: K

          Still, 1 K = 1.38064878066922E-26 kJ.... and writing it 1 K = 1.38064878066922E-26 KJ would make no sense.

          1. Blackjack Silver badge

            Re: K

            Just because the wrong answer makes no sense doesn't meant people won't use it.

            Besides you just know it would complete ruin Excel spreadsheets otherwise!

        2. A K Stiles

          Re: K

          so when you see a value referred to as 247.35Kgms-1 or 247.35kgms-1 do you know if it is talking about kilogram metres per second and not Kelvin (earth)gravity metres per second? and yes, you may well get some combination of those sorts of units so avoiding ambiguity wherever possible does make sense.

          Also, sorry - "except" ... standards to maintain!

          1. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge

            Re: K

            While we're on the subject of pedantry and maintaining standards, I just thought I'd note a small point of typesetting that I deal with it's s−1 and not s-1. There are big differences in meaning and usage between "-", "–", and "−". I get it – you don't tend to get taught this sh*t, even at university (and it doesn't help that I've had to install AutoHotkey just to produce these symbols with any ease), but I'd like it if more people understood. But then I guess I'd be out of a job if nobody got this stuff wrong.

            1. jake Silver badge

              Re: K

              As you know very well, those differences depend entirely on which style guide or manual of style you subscribe to, and as such are quite subjective. It's probably not worth debating in this forum, though —Knowing the commentardariat, it'd probably devolve into something as silly as how many tittles can dance on the head of a pica pole, and whether or not they are strictly necessary.

              1. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge

                Re: K

                At the risk of proving you right re such debates, I would say that I've yet to find a journal worth publishing in (barring, for example, various Chinese journals with impact factors best indicated using negative exponents) that doesn't distinguish between a minus sign and a hyphen. En dashes, on the other hand, are (in my opinion) all too often ignored in favour of hyphens. It's the en dash that tells us the Lennard-Jones potential was the work of a single person while Runge–Kutta methods are the brainchild of two (ignoring, of course, the thorny issue of accurate attribution of scientific achievements).

        3. MOH

          Re: K


          1. Clunking Fist

            Re: K


      2. TimMaher Silver badge

        “Confused with Kelvin”

        I doubt it. Kelvin has red hair.

    2. lnLog

      Re: B, H

      H is used for Henry - units of inductance

      1. Roger Greenwood

        Re: B, H

        But the alternatives proposed are also well known, R = Resistance and Q = charge. Lets face it most of the Roman and Greek alphabet is already taken multiple times so go with the funny as it will be easier to remember.

        1. Martin an gof Silver badge

          Re: B, H

          R and Q are not the official symbols though, they are just convenient conventions used in certain circumstances, Resistance is the Ohm - Ω while charge is the Coulomb - C. The former is often used as a substitute for Ω, but not in official documents unless there is no ambiguity.

          Both Q and R seem to me mostly to be used in calculations as "variables":

          Rt = R1 + R2

          Rt = 1000kΩ + 470Ω

          You might type 1000kR but only because your typewriter doesn't have an Ω key or 7-bit ASCII doesn't support it, and only in an unambiguous context. I don't think I've ever seen charge written as "100Q" rather than "100C".


          1. terrythetech

            Re: B, H

            In my experience resistor values are often written as e.g 4k7 1M5 etc. R is often then used for values less than 1k0 e.g 470R, 1R5. i.e. it is a resistor, we know it is ohms so we leave that bit out unless it is less than 1k0 when we use R. Though for the life of me I can't imagine ever needing a 1H5 resistor.

            1. Richard 12 Silver badge

              Re: B, H

              You can want a 1H5 resistor all you like, but you ain't gonna get.

              1. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

                Re: B, H

                "Ah, you've ordered a 1H5 resistor? It's out back on the lorry"

              2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

                Re: B, H

                3cm air gap: ;0

              3. Frederic Bloggs

                Re: B, H

                Well, not deliberately anyway.

    3. Cuddles Silver badge

      Re: B, H

      "Or .. I guess most of the positive prefixes are upper case. Why is that, when k for kilo is lower ?"

      Tradition. SI was only established in 1960, but the kilogram has been around since the 1700s. The SI system tries to keep everything as consistent as possible, but it also tries to avoid conflicting with conventions that already exist. So any new prefixes will follow the rule that positive are capitals and negative are lower case, but kilo doesn't because it already existed before the convention was established.

      That also explains why some things might conflict with others, simply because they already did before anyone really tried standardising things. But that doesn't mean it's a good idea to introduce even more new conflicts just because some already exist.

    4. John H Woods

      Re: B, H

      With the historical exception of k for kilo, uppercase is used for >1 prefixes and lowercase for <1 prefixes (with a special mention for μ for micro, which is lowercase but is Greek)

      1. YetAnotherLocksmith

        Re: B, H

        And there, too, it (μ) was convention long before SI came along. Wiki says 1873.

        1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

          Re: B, H

          And u if your typewriter/typeface didn't have μ. 100uR resistor anybody? :)

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: B, H

            Except for those jerks that used "mF" on their caps to mean microfarads.

    5. poohbear

      Re: B, H

      So we're not talking about pencils here then?

  3. jake Silver badge


    What a hella good idea! I'm stoked!

    Disclaimer: We've been using it informally for several years around these here parts. I've seen it at SLAC, Sandia, JPL and LLNL. Also at IBM Almaden... and obviously Stanford & Berkeley.

    1. sabroni Silver badge

      Re: SLAC, Sandia, JPL and LLNL. Also at IBM Almaden... and obviously Stanford & Berkeley

      Could you consider getting over yourself for a second?

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: SLAC, Sandia, JPL and LLNL. Also at IBM Almaden... and obviously Stanford & Berkeley

        Have you considered posting on-topic life observations and experiences instead of off-topic ineffectual sniping at random commentards?

        1. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge

          Re: SLAC, Sandia, JPL and LLNL. Also at IBM Almaden... and obviously Stanford & Berkeley

          Everyone here knows you're not random – you're jake.

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: SLAC, Sandia, JPL and LLNL. Also at IBM Almaden... and obviously Stanford & Berkeley

            Not random?

            Are you insinuating that Sabroni is targeting me in particular?

            I'm not sure if you expect me to feel flattered, or to dissolve into a fit of giggles.

            1. This post has been deleted by its author

            2. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge

              Re: SLAC, Sandia, JPL and LLNL. Also at IBM Almaden... and obviously Stanford & Berkeley

              I expect nothing in particular from jake except relentless replies. It shows commendable commitment.

    2. don't you hate it when you lose your account

      Re: Dude!

      I really do suggest you introduce these illustrious organisations to the register's units of measurement, so we can all be on the same page and stop this madness.

      Ps think hella is worthy of inclusion. Hellabrontosaurus

    3. bombastic bob Silver badge

      Re: Dude!

      The only person I've *EVAR* heard use the term 'hella' (as in this context) was a relative who was living in San Francisco at the time, in the 90's.

      (Personally, I would prefer SHIT-PILE)

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Dude!

        bob, dude, you need to chill out and hit the beach. Catch a few waves, commune with the great outdoors, man. Do you a world of good.

  4. HildyJ Silver badge


    According to NIST H is not used, just h (for hecto, 10^2).

    The negative side recognizes both milli (m) and micro (Greek letter mu).

    So the arguments against hella are spurious but as a compromise they could use the Greek H equivalent, the letter Eta.

    Or we could just use U for UnitMcUnitFace.

    1. Mike VandeVelde

      Re: UnitMcUnitFace

      Unit y McUnitFace

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: UnitMcUnitFace

        even better than the one I mentioned earlier. well done!

    2. Tomato42

      Re: SI

      then NIST should update their documentation, because Henry is very much a unit of electrical inductance:

      1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Re: SI

        yebbut, H isn't a prefix, which is what the OP was talking about.

        1. Tomato42

          Re: SI

          we do multiply units without adding a character between them... you know, like with Nm

  5. jake Silver badge

    In other news ...

    ... Wolfram|Alpha still exists? Who knew.

    1. Paul Kinsler

      Re: Wolfram|Alpha still exists? Who knew.

      Well, I knew.

      True, I don't use it very often, but it's a convenient way of doing symbolic integration when the integrand is a bit hairy.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Wolfram|Alpha still exists? Who knewD.

        ::smacks self in forehead::

        Of course! I knew I was forgetting something. That's truly handy, I must make it my homepage.

        1. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge

          Re: Wolfram|Alpha still exists? Who knewD.

          Snark all you like, but this is daily stuff for some people. WolframAlpha never claimed to be Google-level mass market, but it's quite good in its niche.

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: Wolfram|Alpha still exists? Who knewD.

            I think I tripped over your sense of humo(u)r a couple blocks back. If you hurry, you might be able to retrieve it.

    2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: In other news ...

      I use Wolfram Mathworld a few times a year when I encounter some mathematical term I don't recognize or fear I may be misremembering. I think that Mathworld is hosted under Alpha. Been a while since I used Alpha for anything else, though.

  6. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "going hella nowhere"

    In a handcart, of course.

    1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      or a handbag!

      1. David 132 Silver badge


        A handbag?!?


        1. jake Silver badge

          Bracknell? Humphries, Shirley!

          (Yes, I know, it was an homage to the original.)

  7. Pascal Monett Silver badge


    Yeah. That's the most important thing we have to worry about these days.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Hella

      Re-read the final two paragraphs of TFA.

      I agree. There is nothing wrong with showing a little levity in science ... Especially when it provides a short, easy, amusing tale to tell the nippers in an otherwise dead boring classroom.

      1. Paul Kinsler

        Re: levity in science

        Did you hear about the time some physicists tried to sneak their new unit, the "hoover" into a paper? It's the unit of vacuum noise, a colloquial way of expressing the random-noise analog to the quantum uncertainty in a single mode. Unfortunately, it didn't work. (shame!)

        I did once manage to get "tardis" accepted in a paper in Phys Rev A, though, for a space-time version of a sort of inverse invisibility cloak, which looked bigger on the inside. But then I was using it as a description, and not claiming a new sort of unit, which is a much more serious matter.

      2. bombastic bob Silver badge

        Re: Hella

        There is nothing wrong with showing a little levity in science

        several RFCs dated April 1 would support this

        Back in the 80's, Admiral Rickover had Murphy's Law (and several corollaries) included in the required reading for the entire Nuclear Navy.

  8. This post has been deleted by its author

  9. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    The general purpose unit of quantity would be a hella-valot

    1. jake Silver badge

      You bastard.

      My cow suggested that during her evening milking, and I rushed in to post it ...

      Have a beer, dammit :-)

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

        Re: You bastard.

        Did you hoof it only to find you'd hadn't moo'ved fast enough.

        1. David 132 Silver badge

          Re: You bastard.

          Charolais you can't be serious.

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: You bastard.

            Don't make me get all Jersey on you ...

        2. jake Silver badge

          Re: You bastard.

          I knew you lot would milk that for all it was worth.

  10. JassMan Silver badge

    Yeah but...

    Hella is a trade name and they may be pleased for a while being associated with big numbers butbe pissed off if Valeo and Lucas get bigger ones.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Yeah but...

      I don't see PETA complaining much. Well, not about their name being used in science anyway. Probably because they don't seem to understand much about science ...

      But it does bring up the obvious question: Would People Eating Tasty Animals take a peta-bite?

    2. jake Silver badge

      Re: Yeah but...

      Lucas tried to have a bigger name ... but they could only manage to light up 5 letters at a time.

  11. This post has been deleted by its author

  12. Combat Epistomologist

    I still say we should go with lotta- and holotta-. But I'm totally good with bumping them up one level after hella-, to be 10^30 and 10^33.

  13. Tuesday Is Soylent Green Day

    While they're at it

    We could include the amazeballsmetre, the cowabungagram and the yolobyte to this selection of prefixes based on words nobody with half a brain uses anymore.....

  14. Pen-y-gors

    Could I suggest

    'Shitloadsa' abbrev $

    e.g. 5 shitloadsabits = 5$b

    1. You aint sin me, roit

      Re: Could I suggest

      Conflicts with counting systems: one, two, shitloads.

      Though works well when referring to cash, particularly when getting estimates from workmen: sharp intake of breath... "That's gonna cost you $"

      1. Alister

        Re: Could I suggest

        No you've got it all wrong, it's one, two, many, lots.

        1. Flightmode

          Re: Could I suggest

          "One, several, many, all" is the one I tend to hear.

        2. PerlyKing

          Re: Could I suggest

          Or possibly:

          One, two, MANY, LOTS!

          [Troll face, obvs]

        3. David 132 Silver badge

          Re: Could I suggest

          Alister: No you've got it all wrong, it's one, two, many, lots.

          Oh great, another Internet Troll.

    2. Someone Else Silver badge

      @Pen-y-gors -- Re: Could I suggest

      Look what you went and made me did - - - ->

  15. chivo243 Silver badge

    Yea Bruh

    Yer Hellacopter is hellacool

  16. LDS Silver badge

    Why use a vernacula expression in instead of a well defined one?

    Peta, exa and yotta have a well defined meaning. What people in California exclaim not so much.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Why use a vernacula expression in instead of a well defined one?

      Of course. California never produced anything of note.

      1. Graham Lockley

        Re: Why use a vernacula expression in instead of a well defined one?

        Well they do some passable wines apparently (not to my taste though ) :)

  17. IGotOut Silver badge

    From the country that has yet to discover metric

    and seems unable to use even the ton

    This item weighs 1,273,000 pounds. Wtf?

  18. anthonyhegedus Silver badge

    What's a Helluva then?

    1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

      A Hella Hella?

  19. Zippy´s Sausage Factory

    Whatever happened to

    the proposal to add grouchi, harpi and chici as prefixes? This is some anti-Marxist operation right here...

    1. Graham Lockley

      Re: Whatever happened to

      Careful, the Tea Party has its eyes everywhere on the lookout for pro-Marxista like yourself

  20. Rich 2

    What about

    Shitloada- ?

    Top hint by the way - whilst googling to make sure S was not an existing SI unit, I found that Amazon can sell you some SI units “at low prices”!! Just saying

    1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

      Re: What about

      I'll add it to my order of smooth, frictionless surface and light, inextensible string - two new SI units.

  21. David Austin


    That's all well and good, but I'm still never saying kibibyte out loud, unless Whiskers comes up with a new brand of cat food.

  22. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    `man units` tells me that the only remaining prefixes that aren't the same character as a unit are D I O Q U X - upper case are prefered for positive powers, and a prefix ending in -a (lower case and -o for negative powers). I think I and O would be ruled out for looking like l and 0, and X might be prefered to be reserved for 'unknown'.

    So, Dottametres, Quinkametres, Umametres.

    1. jake Silver badge


      Used especially by by mathematicians and theoretical physicists when measuring their pocket stains. For other uses, see Rorschach.

    2. Mark #255

      U prefix

      I'd like to propose the Reeves-and-Mortimeresque Uvavumetre. And, given that "I" is also free, the Iranumetre.

      1. Emir Al Weeq

        Re: U prefix

        I fully support uvavumetre but I think "iranu" is actually spelt "eranu" due to a remarkably clear memory of Ulrika Jonsson wearing a tight T-shirt with it printed on.

  23. Stoneshop Silver badge

    the quadrennial meeting

    of the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM)'s General Conference on Weight and Measures.

    Well known for its long meetings where everybody weighs in on these matters.

    1. Daniel Pfeiffer

      Re: the quadrennial meeting

      the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM)'s General Conference on Weight and Measures

      They tried in vain to clear up the confusion about billions and trillions in 1948.

      Originally and logically a billion (shortened from bi-million) means 2 millions multiplied with each other, i.e. 10^12. Likewise a trillion/tri-million is 3 millions multiplied, i.e. 10^18. Then some countries became confused and decided to shorten those numbers to 10^9 & 10^12, making the words etymologically meaningless.

      Since the conference gave up on harmonizing that, we're stuck with this ambiguity with most of Europe using the original meaning. Whereas the Brits already brexited in '74 and waddled after the Americans for these words. As do Canadians when speaking English, while in French they stick to the original meaning. So you always have to question the validity of these words, which might just be a mistranslation.

  24. John Savard

    Won't Fly

    Obviously there would be strong opposition to such a prefix from the United States, where many people take any kind of blasphemous swearing very seriously!

    It's almost as bad as taking the Lord's name in vain!

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Won't Fly

      The supposed "strong opposition" is from a very small, but loud, number of bible thumpers. Fortunately, their numbers are dwindling with each generation. Probably dying off as a result of refusing to believe in the modern world and the things that it has brought us. Like medicine.

      And I'll take a God's name in vain even if one chooses to prove that it exists. (Which has never happened, ever. I wonder why?) Nothing is deserving of worship. Period.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hella lights

    What about the (German multinational) company Hella who make lights for vehicles?

    How do the feel about this?

    (fettles the Hella headlamps/fogs on my 1987 E30 3.18i)...

  26. Lorribot

    How many 10 to the would a Hella yotta bytes be?

  27. gerdesj Silver badge


    I think that hella is short for hell of a lot of. Witness: "Hella good" by No Doubt.

    So perhaps lot or lotta might do for this prefix because we'll need another one for whatever "fucking shit loads of" has to deal with (1030?)

  28. sitta_europea

    I'm confused. Does the sun weigh 2.2 hellatons or a hellagram?

    Both values are quoted in the article, and it seems to me that this very confusion argues strongly against the new term.

    Anyway I always think of it as 2.0x10^30 kg, which is easy to remember if you're a bit nuts about useless numbers.

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