Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Extreme flexibility - years and years and years and years...

I took an InfoWorld survey this morning, and at the end of the survey they captured demographic information about the people they surveyed.

One of the questions that was asked was "In what year were you born?"

Now us stupid Americans should realize that all people in the world don't calculate years in the same way. I'm at least somewhat familiar with the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim ways of counting years, and there are certainly other systems around the world that have a different starting point for when time began.

So it's good if your year numbering system is a little flexible. But the designers of my InfoWorld survey made it a little too flexible.

As you can see, I have entered the first two digits of my year of birth. In the lower right corner, InfoWorld is informing me that I can enter another 498 digits.

Yes, a 500-digit year.

By way of comparison, your average Big Bang-ite assumes a universe age of 13.7 billion years, which can be expressed in 11 digits.

When you get to really really big numbers, then you're dealing with 10 to the 100th power, or a googol. (Yup, that's how it's spelled.)

If you're talking about a number that requires 500 digits to express...well, you're exceeding the brain capacities of everybody.

Except for some survey programmer who was working for InfoWorld. Those survey programmers must live in a multi-multi-multi-dimensional reality.

Or there's another explanation...

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