Googly, Google, Googol, and a Googolplex

In this video, produced by the very talented Brady Haran over at Numberphile, which you can subscribe to here, Dr. Ria Symonds and Dr. Tony Padilla discuss and put into perspective just how amazingly massive a Googol is. If you like this video, please join us in supporting Numberphile on Patreon here.

Bonus Facts:

  • In the early 20th century, the word “googly” popped up both describing eyes “googly eyes” and as a term in the sport cricket, referring to a type of breaking ball. (And, if you’re curious, see: How the Sport Cricket Got Its Name)
  • The first known instance of the word “Google” was long before the internet and the subsequent search giant.  This appeared in the comic strip Take Barney Google, F’rinstance (later called Barney Google and Snuffy Smith). The comic was first published on June 17, 1919, with the last name of the main character referencing his googly eyes. In 1941, The Magic Faraway Tree had the phrase “Google Buns,” which the children ate in the story along with Pop Biscuits.  This all brings us back to a googolplex and the common misspelling (sometimes intentional, sometimes not) of that as googleplex. For instance, in The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy where there is the Googleplex Star Thinker supercomputer from the Seventh Galaxy of Light and Ingenuity.  As for the name of the search company, Sean Anderson and Larry Page were attempting to come up with a better name than “BackRub” for the future search behemoth, when Anderson suggested “Googolplex,” hinting at the vast amount of data the search engine would index.  Page thought “Googol” would work better as it was shorter, and still represented a massively big number.  After a quick search to see if anyone already had that domain, they snagged “Google.com,” perhaps a purposeful misspelling, which is handy for trademarking, or perhaps not.

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