A googol has no particular significance in mathematics, but is useful when comparing with other very large quantities such as the number of subatomic particles in the visible universe or the number of hypothetically possible chess games. Edward Kasner used it to illustrate the difference between an unimaginably large number and infinity, and in this role it is sometimes used in teaching mathematics.
Googol is notable for being the subject of the £1 million question in the infamous episode of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, when contestant Charles Ingram cheated his way through the show by getting help from his wife, who was in the audience, and fellow contestant Tecwen Whittock. It is also the namesake of the internet company Google, with the name "Google" being a misspelling of "googol" by the company's founders.
To give a sense of how big a googol really is, the mass of an electron, just under 1×10-30 kg, can be compared to the mass of the entire universe, estimated at between 1×1050kg and 1×1060 kg. It is a ratio in the order of about 1080 to 1090, still much smaller than the value of a googol.
- Weisstein, Eric W., "Googol", MathWorld.
- googol at PlanetMath
- Padilla, Tony; Symonds, Ria. "Googol and Googolplex". Numberphile. Brady Haran.
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